Can Barcelona really afford Raphinha?


Raphinha took a trip to Disneyland Korea last week and, after keeping the relegation wolf out of the gate at Leeds United, it was one roller coaster and another.

We are at the end of the season but football never stops and as far as Raphinha is concerned, this summer promises to be one hell of a ride.

The Brazilian team were in South Korea to play a friendly – where they emerged 5-1 winners – and Raphinha’s international rise has been so steep that wherever Brazil goes these days, he goes too. He is their overnight success story. He took leave from Leeds a fortnight ago with no absolute guarantee that he would ever return, with his future depending on how the transfer market develops.

Leeds have spent most of the year answering questions about how long they can expect to keep the electric winger they signed from French club Rennes at the start of the 2020-21 season.

They face the same questions over Kalvin Phillips, but it has long been thought that persuading the England midfielder to stay at Elland Road, at least in the short term, will be easier than cornering Raphinha.

Raphinha shoots a free kick for Brazil against South Korea on Thursday (Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

As Leeds battled relegation last season, finally only fighting him on the final day of the campaign, the general feeling was that the 25-year-old would gravitate towards bigger things once the summer transfer window opened, moving on to the level where he is obviously good. enough to play.

In that sense, the fact that Leeds remain standing has changed very little.

They are supportive of Raphinha’s ambition and do not intend to be unfair or obstructive if their assessment is met. They no longer expect him to agree to a new contract – something that seemed to be on the cards midway through the season – and although Raphinha hasn’t asked for a transfer directly, it’s no secret that he considers himself a Champions League footballer. The names of the clubs linked to him prove that others also see him as a Champions League footballer, and it’s already certain that an in-form Raphinha will be in Brazil’s squad for the World Cup in November. and December.

Nonetheless, survival as a Premier League club has left Leeds holding a useful number of cards.

Raphinha’s contract contains a relegation buyout clause that would have allowed him to leave well below market value had Leeds gone down, and it’s no coincidence that Barcelona’s interest in him intensified at the days when Jesse Marsch’s team seemed doomed. It’s also no coincidence that Manchester City’s attention to Phillips has become more formal and concerted as the chances of Leeds dropping out of the Championship have drastically reduced.

Relegation would have made Leeds vulnerable to low offers and other clubs knew it.

As it stands, they’re under no pressure to consider discounted deals or allow third parties to dictate their decision.

Raphinha, Leeds

Raphinha has been crucial to Leeds’ Premier League survival (Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

Raphinha has two years left on his contract and Leeds will be aware that if he stays his value will be considerably lower in 12 months than it is now. But sources told Athleticism that he is likely to bid between £60m and £70m to get Raphinha out of Elland Road – potentially four times what they paid for him less than two years ago.

Barcelona are his main suitors and the club where all the noise about Raphinha is coming from – the club that seemed destined to sign him for many months.

But the question for Barcelona is a pointed one: can they really afford this deal?

The time was when ownership in Catalonia could land a signing like Raphinha in any given window, when virtually no transfer target was impossible. But Barcelona are a very different animal now, with debts of over £1billion and tight controls over their recruitment and spending.

A club that was forced to part ways with talisman Lionel Messi on a free under La Liga rules last summer is unable to flex its muscles a year later, and it faces a tough window unless he can find new sources of income or raise significant funds. funds through player sales.

La Liga’s enforcement of a tight salary cap at Camp Nou, well below the limits imposed on their 2021-22 title and arch-rivals Real Madrid, who won the Champions League, has seriously limited purchasing power from Barcelona.

Their situation was summed up this week by La Liga president Javier Tebas, who questioned whether they were in a position to acquire Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski for £25million and a salary. annual of approximately £17 million.

“Barca know what they have to do,” Tebas said. “They are fully aware of our economic regulations and their financial situation. I don’t know if they will sell Frenkie de Jong, Pedri or Pepito Perez (a Barcelona actor who died in the 1970s). They have to fill their tank, which is empty. As things stand, they can’t sign Lewandowski.

Of course, the club’s hierarchy, including chairman Joan Laporta, were unimpressed with those comments.

Laporta accused Tebas of ‘harming Barcelona’ by speaking publicly about their recruitment. But it is true that they have only limited financial flexibility.

Barcelona have agreed to sign free agents Andreas Christensen (from Chelsea) and Franck Kessie (AC Milan) but, as things stand, have no space under their salary cap to register them. Head coach Xavi also wants Ousmane Dembele to sign a new contract but the striker hasn’t accepted any of the club’s offers and could leave for nothing with his existing contract.

As Tebas said, before securing new signings, Barcelona need to fill their coffers again. Laporta and his fellow directors are considering several ways to do so, including the possibility of completing La Liga’s controversial CVC deal late. They have the option of selling the future TV rights to an investor and could raise additional funds by dropping stakes in their BLM merchandising arm and production company Barca Studios.

Estimates put the potential revenue from these potential deals at over £650million, although much of it is expected to be spent on paying off existing debts.

There is also a long list of players Barcelona would like to move on to, creating some extra wiggle room and freedom under the salary cap. These include substitute goalkeeper Neto, defenders Sergino Dest, Samuel Umtiti, Clement Lenglet and Oscar Mingueza, midfielders Miralem Pjanic and Riqui Puig, and forwards Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite and Francisco Trincao.

The complication is that it will be difficult to find willing buyers for some or all of the excess crowd, not least because many of them are on high salaries. This explains why they are open to the idea of ​​selling De Jong who has been heavily linked with Manchester United recently. Although the 25-year-old Dutch midfielder is seen as an asset, he is also a player Barcelona could more easily use as collateral.

A clearer picture of Barcelona’s position is expected to emerge after an emergency general meeting on June 16 and the end of their exercise two weeks later.

The priority for Laporta and the directors around him is to build a competitive squad for next season and the players they want to sign for include Raphinha and Lewandowski. They also like Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva, Valencia’s Carlos Soler, Sevilla’s Jules Kounde and two other Chelsea players in Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso.

While it’s inconceivable that they’ll land all those names, they want to give themselves a fighting chance in the 2022-23 La Liga after finishing second but 13 points behind champions Madrid last month.

That Barcelona turned their attention to Raphinha in the first place is no surprise.

His agent, Deco, was a star player for them in the early years of this century and is very close to Laporta.

It was reported in February that Deco is indeed the Catalan club’s chief scout in South America, the market where he picked up Raphinha as a teenager at Avia, a club that has yo-yoed between the top two divisions of Brazil for the past decade, before moving. in Vitoria Guimaraes and Sporting Lisbon in Portugal, then the move to Rennes in the summer of 2019.

Perennial German champions Bayern have been touted as another possible destination for the winger, with Lewandowski pushing to leave, but they have made no contact with Leeds. Barcelona, ​​on the other hand, opened communication channels some time ago but their interest hasn’t increased in the two weeks since the end of the English season.

These financial handcuffs mean Barcelona’s 2022-23 squad is unlikely to be finalized until very late in the summer window.

The answer to whether they can afford Raphinha might not be clear for some time to come. Barcelona could try to dangle excess players in partial exchange, a way to cheapen any deal for them. But La Liga’s salary cap rules would complicate this process as a set percentage of the money received would have to be spent on servicing their debt.

Additionally, Leeds have pre-existing plans for the upcoming window and may not be interested in a cash-plus-player proposition.

Survival on the final day of the Premier League season avoided an out-of-control summer at Elland Road.

With the 2022-23 calendar overhauled to host a winter World Cup, this off-season is so short that Leeds are expected to begin pre-season training within weeks.

At this point, it’s highly likely that Raphinha will be with them when they do, albeit after extra time off to make up for international duty.

Where it ends up remains to be seen, but Leeds are in the box, with no reason to consider their price tag, rush into anything or do anyone any favors – Barcelona let alone.

(Top photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)


Comments are closed.