Raphinha’s last day at Leeds United’s training ground was a quiet one. Indeed, the rest of the squad were 10,500 miles away in Australia preparing for the upcoming season in the Premier League whilst Raphinha went through a few individual drills in the uncharacteristically hot West Yorkshire sun. The Brazilian had, of course, been given permission to stay behind by the Leeds hierarchy in the hope that Barcelona would find some money in order to make a move the Nou Camp official whilst they were Down Under.
Against all odds, the call arrived just before midday on the 13th of July to inform Leeds that Barcelona had managed to find the £50 million upfront fee that the Whites were standing firm about letting Raphinha go for. How the Catalan club scrounged this eye-watering sum in the perilous financial state they’re in or how they were able to bypass La Liga's salary cap is anyone’s guess but similarly, this was now irrelevant to Leeds. Instead, the Brazilian left Thorp Arch and set out for Leeds Bradford Airport where a private jet took would hurtle him down the notoriously undulating runway before taking off into the summer skies to leave a place that he would, in all likelihood, never return to again.
"Hello, Culers! This is Raphinha and I'm in Barcelona!" pic.twitter.com/qIZUMidyn1
Meanwhile, a two-hour flight separated Raphinha from his dream move and Leeds from having £50 million put into their bank account.
A summer of change
Crucially, the Brazilian's transfer would mark the second significant departure from Elland Road in the space of two weeks after Kalvin Phillips signed a long-term deal with Manchester City on the 4th of July. Yes, the majority of the squad were Down Under but Thorp Arch felt eerily quiet all of a sudden following the club selling the final piece of the family silver. Even a new sleek Adidas kit design released on the same day to soften Raphinha’s departure couldn't lift the spirits of those who connected to the Whites. The inescapable truth is that this club knows all too well about rapid downfall and understandably, there is now an anxious feeling around Elland Road after Leeds let their two best players go on the back of a season where they just narrowly avoided going down. Concerningly, the latest football odds, as of the 14th of July, suggest that the Whites will have their work cut out for them to avert relegation after being priced at just 9/4 to go down. In short, all signs point toward life in the Barclays Premier League being a struggle for Leeds during the upcoming season.
It’s a fair assumption to make after Leeds allowed their most talented players to move on but similarly, you have to take a moment to consider how hard director of football Victor Orta has worked to reinvest the money Leeds received for their most prized assets. Indeed, the Whites have so far successfully recruited Brenden Aaronson, Luis Sinisterra, Tyler Adams, Rasmus Kristensen, and Marc Roca. On paper, those are five incredibly astute signings who should, theoretically, give Leeds exciting new options all over the pitch. Football as we know, however, isn’t played on paper which is why the jury will remain out until fans see what this reshaped Leeds side can produce in the flesh over the course of their demanding fixture list.
The point to consider here, however, is that Leeds haven’t sat on the £100 million they received for Phillips and Raphinha and have rather been actively seeking able replacements in order to stave off relegation to the Championship.
How high should the expectations be for Leeds' new boys?
That will, of course, be the very minimum requirement this season and as briefly alluded to, you could even argue that Leeds do in fact look like a more rounded team following the arrival of these new players. If that is the case then you can easily see Leeds on course for a mid-table finish which would be music to the ears of the Elland Road faithful after arriving at the Brentford Community Stadium on the final day of last season, having resigned themselves to relegation.
“It’s hard to see him leave, I know it’s his dream to play for Barcelona.”
Jesse Marsch on Raphinha leaving Leeds United for Barcelona. pic.twitter.com/dWhTPTKYIf
Again, it’s too early to say with any certainty how this new-look Leeds team will fare but following substantial investment on incomings, the Whites have given themselves every chance of adapting to life in the Premier League without Phillips and Raphinha. Yes, the family silver is gone, but Leeds could have struck gold after an industrious summer in the transfer market.