Coming off of his first season, Raphinha managed to net 10 goals and register 12 assists in all competitions. Even so, I still think this undersells his potential value.
Raphinha’s profile is different from Dembele’s. The latter holds the width for the team himself whereas the former cuts inside from the right wing and needs someone to keep the width for him.
Raphinha unlike Dembele is a very creative winger through his passing and excellent crossing ability. In addition, the Brazilian also has some excellent ball striking technique and can be an overperformer in his expected goals stat.
In some ways, he tends to be the anti-Dembele with his strengths being a creative wide playmaker whilst also needing someone to retain width for him when he cuts in on his favoured left foot.
Another important thing to note is Raphinha’s work rate. Xavi’s system requires a lot of runners for his press and Raphinha is a more than willing runner.
Finally, it is also important to mention that Raphinha wasn’t always able to play to his strengths and still managed to produce. Since Raphinha liked to invert, it often unbalanced the attack since no one was providing the needed width on the right. Yet, despite this structural issue for the team he managed to produce some important stats for Barcelona.
The biggest problem is that Xavi’s 3-2-2-3 box isn’t suited to the wide playmaker role Raphinha likes to play. To get the best out of Raphinha you would need to rework the system and also purchase a fullback that overlaps into the space Raphinha creates.
It’s similar to the dynamic Lionel Messi and Dani Alves had when Messi would cut inside and Alves would attack the space opened up by Messi. Xavi’s system is not that nor do we have a right back with the profile of Alves which brings me to my second point.
If we are to get the best out of Raphinha, we would also need to buy an offensive fullback to play on the right wing. While Barcelona have been linked to a right back of that profile (Ivan Fresnada) given our difficult financial situation, it does not seem likely we will have the funds to do so.
To conclude, Raphinha is also not a proficient enough 1v1 dribbler to beat his man. The domino effect as a result now becomes the team relying on someone else to either beat their man and create an advantage or find someone else to progress the ball.
Overall, Raphinha is an interesting case. Looking at both sides, you can see there is an insanely creative player who can produce even though the team around him is not completely suited to his strengths.
However, those questions about system fit loom over him and Xavi. I think despite the concerns Raphinha is a potential starting-level right winger for Barcelona. Unless a team comes in with a gigantic offer, I think Raphinha is a player worth keeping.