Raphinha has given Bielsa his X-Factor – now Leeds must beware what comes next

When Premier League clubs have splashed the cash in France during the past decade, there have been no shortage of hits – but also no shortage of misses.

Seemingly, for every diamond like Yohann Cabaye, there's been a Didier Ndong waiting around the corner.

For many, Ligue 1 has been somewhat treacherous if the required due diligence hasn't been undertaken – and even sometimes when it has.

But Leeds United look to have struck gold with the summer signing of Raphinha, a man who already looks, as Patrick Bamford put it, a "steal" at £17million.

The Brazilian signed from Rennes in the summer having previously been a teammate of Bruno Fernandes at Sporting Lisbon.

And much like Manchester United, Leeds haven't had to wait long to see their substantial investment pay off.

The 24-year-old scored on just his second start as he grabbed the winner at Everton back in November.

Marcelo Bielsa was quick to credit club chief Victor Orta with spotting the mercurial winger.

He said after the win at Goodison Park: "Victor Orta anticipated that he had the characteristics to play in this league so he was correct in choosing him and he, of course, is a player who worries the opposing defence."

Orta's prediction was right and the Leeds squad were quick to agree with him.

Bamford, the man reaping the rewards of Raphinha's attacking creativity, claimed it was immediately obvious that the winger was "top class".

Rumours of a bid from a top six club have already begun and interest is already growing among the so-called elite, but Leeds will hope they don't take that "punt" their striker was talking about.

He said on Monday night: "Raphinha is brilliant. To be honest he's been a steal for Leeds.

"As soon as he came in and we saw him in training you know with some players whether they're good or top class and he stood out straight away.

"I'm surprised that more established Premier League teams haven't taken a punt on him because he really is something special and he's still young."

Gary Cahill was the latest defender to be bamboozled, seeing the Brazilian nutmeg him with some divine skill; Cahill could only drag him to the ground.

Raphinha has scored four times this term, with three of those strikes contributing to winning performances.

He is a classic right-sided, left-footed winger. His pace and trickery mean preventing him from coming on to his favoured side is far easier said than done, and his left foot is certainly of the 'cultured' variety, capable of dropping the ball on a 50 pence piece from 20 yards with seeming ease.

The Elland Road faithful, while they were present, will have fond memories of their intense style and intricate passing helping to see off teams as they scythed their way through the Championship.

With Bielsa that style was always going to carry on in the top flight.

The Argentine has worked with wingers like Jack Harrison, Ian Poveda, Tyler Roberts and Helder Costa in recent years and all have benefited from Bielsa's coaching, plus a system that brings the best out of them.

But the addition of Raphinha though has been a game-changer, giving Leeds that X-Factor that they didn't have prior to his signing.

The aforementioned quartet are all fine players, but the Brazilian has helped transform Leeds' attack as it has adapted to the top flight.

He is the one man that would get fans out of their seat every time he's given the ball, such is his quality and swagger. Leeds can count themselves fortunate that they're enjoying the benefits.

Fernandes previously claimed that the connection he had with Raphinha in Portugal was unique.

"He's a player with whom I had a different chemistry from the others. He understood me at a glance," he said in 2019.

Any player who's in sync with the Manchester United talisman, among the most demanding of individuals, has clearly got talent.

Leeds were more than aware of that ability when they signed him.

Now they'll be wary of those figures, growing in number, who are casting amorous glances over the Brazilian shining in the Yorkshire sun.

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