Xavi responds to Raphinha exit speculation
Barcelona coach Xavi has denied suggestions that Raphinha’s time at Camp Nou might only be brief, describing the Brazilian winger as the ‘future’ of the club.
The Catalans agreed a deal with Leeds worth €58m inflated with €9m in add-ons last summer.
Raphinha had impressed in the Premier League in a struggling team, scoring 11 times for Leeds in 35 appearances to help keep them in the division. That had also attracted interested from Chelsea, who had a bid accepted, and Arsenal. But Barcelona won the race.
However, it hasn’t been plain sailing for the 26-year-old at Camp Nou. Despite making the perfect start by scoring the only goal in a pre-season Clasico win over Real Madrid in Las Vegas, he has struggled to nail down a regular place and has rarely completed 90 minutes.
Four of his 10 La Liga starts this season have been since the World Cup break, though, suggesting things are improving. Raphinha also played a big role in Wednesday night’s win over Real Betis.
There had been renewed speculation about Arsenal interest in January, particularly when the Gunners lost out on signing Mykhailo Mudryk to Chelsea. But Xavi has shut down talk of a possible Camp Nou exit for Raphinha any time soon.
“We will always support Raphinha — he’s the future of Barcelona,” the coach said after the Betis game. “He's a criticised player, but he does a lot and we value Raphinha a lot.”
Barcelona opened up an eight-point cushion over Real Madrid at the top of La Liga with that hard fought victory over Betis, putting pressure on Los Blancos to try and push it back to just five when they are in action against Valencia on Thursday night.