In today’s social media climate, where clicks and engagement are the currency of the internet, you can always be sure of one thing: transfer window rumors. But nine times out of ten, the “reports” we see in the world of football are fraudulent – meant to farm responses rather than accurately inform. That said, when a rumor is persistent, maybe it’s time to dive deeper into it and see if it has any merit. It’s often easy to tell if some breaking news if true or not, if a little common sense is used. If it doesn’t seem like it makes any sense for the teams or players involved – it probably isn’t true.
As it pertains to FC Barcelona, there have always been rumors. Some, more consistent than others. One of the most consistent in recent months has been that of Raphinha. It feels like we’ve been talking about his possible departure for months now, whether it be Chelsea, Newcastle, or Al-Hilal. These discussions have cropped up again recently, especially with reports of an €80 million bid from the Saudi Arabian side for the Brazilian winger. But do they make sense? Should he be sold? Let’s look at it from a few different angles and see if we can come to a conclusion (no promises!).
Reviewing Raphinha’s first season
Raphinha’s first season in the Catalan capital was, while not extraordinary, quite solid (and underrated in my opinion). He finished with a very respectable 22 goal contributions, many of which came in Barça’s 1-0 wins. While not always pretty, he got the job done quite a bit for Xavi’s side last season, and at the end of the day, effectiveness matters.
Raphinha, however, isn’t quite what fans have come to expect from Brazilian wingers. He’s not flashy and full of tricks, he’s not an elite dribbler, and he’s more direct than players we’ve had in the past. He isn’t as technically gifted as a Neymar or Ronaldinho when it comes to touches, passing…. anything at all, really. While he isn’t a bad dribbler, he isn’t adept at taking on defenders, preferring instead to run into space and make runs in behind. He is quite good at that. This makes some sense when considering Xavi’s quasi-possesion, quasi-vertical style the team employed last season. That style, however, may end up evolving.
Let’s take a look at some stats, courtesy of datamb.football:
Ousmane Dembélé (pink) is everything Raphinha (blue) is and more. He carries the ball well and completes more dribbles, which is to be expected from the dynamic Frenchman. He also completes more key passes and gets in more shots and crosses on average. So does this mean there’s no place for Raphinha in the squad?
Of course not, because we can’t deny the obvious: does anyone expect Dembélé to stay healthy all season? A look at these same stats will show Raphinha played over 600 minutes more, and his good run of form last season came when he was thrust into the starting lineup because of a Dembélé injury. We need backup in all positions, but especially in the right winger position those two players frequent. The left-footed Brazilian is a better option by far than anyone we have to fill that specific role if (when?) Ousmane can’t go.
The economic situation
As we know, the economic situation at Barcelona is improving, but they’re not quite spending with impunity yet. Finances are tight, and an €80 million offer would do wonders for the team. Add to that the fact that Laporta and company still owe Leeds United €40 million for Raphinha’s initial transfer to Catalonia, and a move starts to make more sense. It makes sense for a few other reasons, too.
Bernardo Silva has been heavily linked to Barcelona, with reports claiming he’s “crazy” to join the blaugrana. Xavi also rates him very highly, by all accounts, and although it wouldn’t be impossible, it’s hard to imagine him and Raphinha coexisting in the squad. They both play on the right, for one. A sale of that amount of money can also greatly facilitate a move for Silva, since the main sticking point in that deal is, of course, the fee. Manchester City would require an offer for a similar amount of money to let Silva come to Spain.
Another player that has been heavily rumored to leave Barça is Frenkie de Jong, with Manchester United very keen on signing him. Erik ten Hag would be reunited with Frenkie from their Ajax days. But would Xavi rather see the Dutch midfielder go, or Raphinha? A Raphinha sale could make the sale of de Jong unnecessary, and it’s been reported that Frenkie doesn’t want to leave in the first place.
What about players such as Ferran Torres and Eric García? It’s seeming unlikely that either of the two will depart this summer, with Franck Kessie’s future still up in the air. If Barça need to sell, and they do, Raphinha is starting to seem more like a viable option every day.
To sum it all up, Raphinha is a good player – he proved as much last season. He’s dependable and effective. However, his style isn’t the most conducive to help the team reach its maximum potential. Could he stick around and give us great depth, assuming health? Certainly… but would you give up €80 million to keep a bench player? What if we could get a Bernardo Silva, or keep a Frenkie de Jong?
It’s a difficult question, one I’m still trying to answer, as I’m sure Xavi, his staff, and Joan Laporta are. I think I would keep him, but I would completely understand if a sale of this magnitude goes through.
What do you think? Would you keep Raphinha, or sell him? Would you hold out for a higher fee? Let us know your thoughts below.