It’s very rare these days that a player leaves a club on good terms – but in the case of Leeds United winger Raphinha that is definitely the case.
Since the Brazilian signed for Leeds from Rennes for £17m in 2020, both player and club enjoyed a wonderful love story as the skillful wide man resurrected his career under Marcelo Bielsa after a tough stint in France.
Raphinha quickly became the Whites’ best player, and he was soon in Brazil squads and getting high recognition across the world for his talents. There is a strong argument to suggest that without him, Leeds would now be in the Championship.
His move to Barcelona was always expected, with agent Deco and idol Ronaldinho having enjoyed their best days there in the early 2000s.
A transfer to the Camp Nou has long been a dream for ‘Raph’ and despite knowing Leeds’ relegation would allow Barca to buy him on the cheap via a release clause, he still worked tirelessly and contributed hugely to United staying up.
Even after the departure of Bielsa, whom Raphinha credits for turning around his career, the Brazil international still gave everything in a white shirt and has more than earned the fans respect, especially knowing that the Spanish giants are struggling financially at present, making the move seem unlikely at times during the window.
The respect among Leeds fans has probably grown a bit further since, especially when he turned down the chance to join Chelsea after the board at Elland Road accepted the Blues £60m bid.
There is a feeling among United supporters that the move to Barca works for everyone – with Leeds making a massive profit, Raphinha able to get his dream move and the fans still able to remember his time with fondness knowing he hasn’t moved to a rival team.
And that narrative was definitely felt in the club’s official statement confirming the transfer to Barcelona for an ‘undisclosed fee’ (thought to be around £50m plus add-ons), as they gave an emotional tribute to a player they described as a ‘fans favourite’ and one that gave his all to the very end.
As far as farewell messages go for a player, this one is right up there…
“Leeds United can confirm Raphinha has today completed a transfer to FC Barcelona for an undisclosed fee.
The winger joined the Whites from Stade Rennais on deadline day in October 2020 and instantly went on to become a fans favourite, with a series of dazzling performances.
He scored his first goal for the club in the 1-0 away victory against Everton at Goodison Park and finished his first campaign with six goals and nine assists from 31 matches.
In August 2021 he was called up by Brazil for the first time, but Covid travel restrictions meant he has to wait until October to make his debut, which he made against Venezuela in a 3-1 victory, and he has since gone on to earn a total of nine caps, scoring three goals.
Raphinha netted three times in six games at the start of the 2021/22 Premier League season and continued to be a pivotal performer in the Leeds team.
As the Whites faced a relegation battle, at the back end of the campaign following the arrival of new head coach Jesse March, Raphinha came up with some game changing moments to ensure the club remained in the Premier League.
Notably, he provided the assist to Joe Gelhardt’s 94th minute winner against Norwich City at Elland Road following a fabulous solo run, netted the opening goal in the 3-0 away at Watford with a fine strike from the edge of the box and most crucially of all, won and scored the penalty against Brentford on the final day of the season, to keep Leeds in the top-flight after bettering Burnley’s result against Newcastle United.
The 25-year-old leaves Leeds United having made 67 appearances for the Whites across all competitions, having scored 17 goals.
We would like to place on record our sincere gratitude to Raphinha for his effort and contribution whilst at the football club.
He showed unquestionable commitment and professionalism until the very end of his time at Elland Road and his celebrations at the Brentford Community Stadium will live long in the memory.
Everyone at Leeds United would like to wish Raphinha the very best for the future and hope he enjoys great success at the Nou Camp and throughout his career.”