Leeds United spent £17 million to bring former Rennes winger Raphinha to Elland Road this summer.
The 23-year-old impressed for the Ligue 1 outfit with his dribbling and creativity, but has played just 15 minutes for the club since he arrived on 5 October.
Marcelo Bielsa has tended to integrate players slowly in the past, as he did with fellow winger Helder Costa, although the likes of Rodrigo and Robin Koch have gone straight into the side this season.
Speaking about the Brazilian in his press conference ahead of Crystal Palace this week, the Argentine said (via Leeds’ official website): “He’s a player who is naturally very attacking with dribbling skills and he likes to get in behind the defence. He likes to attack and these skill are applicable out wide as well as in the centre.”
Bielsa also said that sees him primarily as a winger, and this makes his road to first team football at Elland Road tricky.
Costa and Jack Harrison have been near ever-presents out wide so far this season, with the home fixture against Manchester City the only time that they did not start opposite each other due to Harrison being ineligible.
Both have been effective in attack too, averaging 0.62 and 0.51 goals plus assists per 90 respectively (via FBRef).
Raphinha though was equally impressive at Rennes and compares well to both players when you look at their statistics from last season.
In the championship, Harrison and Costa averaged 0.33 and 0.24 goals plus assists per 90 minutes respectively, whereas Raphinha averaged 0.42 per 90 in the arguably more competitive French top-flight.
Furthermore, he averaged more shots, key passes, crosses and completed dribbles per appearance than the Leeds pair (via WhoScored).
Now, this is not to take anything away from the Costa and Harrison, who have made an important contribution already this season.
However, as Leeds have already seen in other positions on the pitch, injuries are an inevitability and rotation is necessary. Last season only 18 players made more than 10 appearances for Bielsa’s side, with six players making more than 40 league appearances.
Enjoying this level of endurance again is unlikely and it will be to the club and Bielsa’s advantage to get a talented player like Raphinha integrated into the first team soon.
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