Raphinha transfer latest: What a Chelsea bid could mean for Leeds United and for them
It is hard to see how losing your two best players, as Leeds United look set to with Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha, can be a good thing but the one positive of Chelsea's emergence as suitors for the latter, is there is now a good chance of both deals being completed before the start of the season.
Drawn-out sagas are the curse of every transfer window, perhaps even more so for the selling club, who want to know if they need to reinvest and how much they have to do it.
Clarity allows everyone to look to the future.
The momentum behind Phillips's move to Manchester City seems to have slowed this week, but it still looks a good bet it will happen. A fee of around £45m may seem low when compared to West Ham United supposedly valuing Declan Rice nearer £100m but that is a red herring because it seems impossible the Hammers will get that sort of money for him - at least not this summer, when the biggest transfer has been Paris Saint-Germain re-signing Kylian Mbappe, putting money into his and his agent's pockets rather than circulating it.
With contractual reasons keeping Erling Haaland, Sadio Mane and Robert Lewandowski's transfer fees down, Romelu Lukaku moving for a relatively low loan fee and Harry Kane likely to stay put at Tottenham Hotspur, this is unlikely to be a blockbuster window in terms of numbers, and Phillips is part of that.
As a glamorous Brazilian winger as opposed to a high-quality holding midfielder, Raphinha looks set to take Phillips's record as Leeds's record signing almost as soon as it is set, with a fee closer to £55m.
The problem for the Whites was that the club at the front of the queue when the transfer window opened, Barcelona, did not have £55m to spend on transfers, and were highly unlikely to until late August at best - not with other transfers already teed up waiting for the sales that would pay for them. It still could be an issue if Raphinha decides it is the Nou Camp or nowhere for him, but the picture has changed.
Arsenal tried to nip in with a cheeky bid but despite having to get their house in order after Todd Boehly bought out Roman Abramovich, Chelsea have emerged as the most likely to make the first realistic offer.
Losing your best player to anyone who could play against you in the coming months is galling - doing so to a club you have had a hate-hate relationship with for more than half a century even more so, but news of Chelsea's interest could smoke out other bids.
How Leeds spend the £100m they can presumably look forward to has been discussed here already - it will allow Jesse Marsch to buy high-quality players more suited to his style of play, which could mean Raphinha's replacement is far from being a like-for-like.
But Raphinha at Stamford Bridge could mean a rethink there, or else a change of role for him.
Under Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea have tended to be wingerless, their width coming from wing-backs in what is typically a 3-4-2-1.
Their reported interest in Raheem Sterling and Raphinha could change that. Unless Tuchel plans to repurpose the pair as inside-forwards, it could mean a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3 but either way, it will be different for somebody.
Under Pep Guardiola, Sterling got used to playing centrally, often as a false No 9, but although Raphinha was never as steadfastly tight to the touchline as a Jack Harrison, Dan James (when playing winger), Crysencio Summerville, Helder Costa or Ian Poveda under Marcelo Bielsa, he looked happier wide than as a No 10. He is no centre-forward either, with James the go-to man as the round peg in the square-shaped No 9 hole.
According to WhoScored.com, Raphinha was fifth in last season's Premier League for most attempted dribbles per game (4.2), ranking higher for key passes than crosses - he likes to get to the byline and pull the ball back or go inside and score, as he did 11 times in the league last season.
Website FOTMB.com calculates he created 65 chances last season, probably a better gauge than his three assists, given Leeds's lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.
Whoever signs Raphinha will be getting an old-school winger in an era where they are going out of fashion.
Chelsea's emergence as serious bidders have made his destination less clear, yet increased the chances of business being done sooner.
Much as they would love their star man to stay, Leeds should be glad of that.