Liverpool have reportedly moved ahead of the queue to sign exciting Leeds winger Raphinha, but face strong competition for his signature.
The 24-year-old earned plenty of plaudits for his debut season in the English top-flight as Leeds secured a hugely impressive ninth-placed finish under Marcelo Bielsa. Indeed, the Whites had to fight off plenty of opposition to get their man from French club Rennes last summer.
Leeds paid what now appears to be a bargain £17million for Raphinha, who is now valued at more than double that.
The attacker scored seven goals and added 11 assists in all competitions. That sort of form has led to the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City all being keen on his signature.
But transfer expert Gianluigi Longari now claims that Jurgen Klopp’s men ‘lead the race’ to sign Raphinha.
The report in the Daily Express adds that, despite the two Manchester clubs holding an interest, the Reds are in the box seat.
However, for their part, Leeds have absolutely no desire to sell and are not under pressure to do so. The player himself also revealed his happiness with life at Elland Road.
“It is difficult to define how I feel when I hear speculation about giant teams like Liverpool and Manchester United interested in signing me,” Raphinha told UOL Sport.
“Man, I grew up watching these teams on television. I saw Rooney, Van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo. But I also saw Gerrard, as well as others like Henry, Deco, Lampard.
“There are so many players of such quality that it is difficult to say if I mirrored one of them.
“I think I mirrored the championship, you know? I loved watching and dreamed of playing here.”
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Raphinha happy at Leeds
“Today I’m making people happy with my football. I am not only talking about the other clubs, but also Leeds, who was the one who bet on me.
“They are all very happy, including the fans who seem to have a great affection for me.
“I have a contract for another four years. I don’t even think about leaving here for exactly this reason: I am happy and making others happy.”
Despite his comments, Leeds are sure to be bracing themselves for bids for one of their star men.
But with Premier League football comfortably secured at the first time of asking, Bielsa’s men are expected to build on their solid foundations and not look to cash-in on top assets.
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