Brazil international Raphinha hopes to follow fellow Selecao stars Ronaldinho and Neymar in enshrining his name into Barcelona history after agreeing his long-awaited transfer this week.

The Blaugrana confirmed an agreement had finally been struck with Leeds United for the winger, pending a medical, to complete one of the window's more protracted sagas, in a deal reportedly worth up to €67million (£56.57m).

Raphinha had preferred a move to Camp Nou since before the transfer window opened, but higher bids from Premier League clubs, including Chelsea, stalled a switch, particularly with Barcelona's financial struggles.

Barca have played host to some of the greatest names in Brazilian football over the years, including World Cup winner Ronaldinho, and Neymar, who became the most-expensive player in history when he left for Paris Saint-Germain.

Both stars left an indelible mark upon the fabric of the club, and now Raphinha is determined to follow in their footsteps.

"I saw Ronaldinho come here and achieve so much and after that Neymar as well," he told Barca TV.

"For me as a Brazilian to come here, it’s an honour. I hope to reach the same objectives that those two players achieved.

"This is a dream come true for me, not just for me also my friends and family.

"They’ve seen me playing since I was a kid. They knew this was a dream of mine to come here. All I can do now is give my best and try to help Barca be what it’s always been."

Originally arriving at Leeds from Rennes following the former's promotion to the Premier League, Raphinha became a standout performer for Marcelo Bielsa, and then Jesse Marsch, over his two seasons at Elland Road.

With 17 goals in 67 appearances for Leeds, the Brazilian says fans can expect him to showcase that drive at Camp Nou too.

"What I can say about myself is that I'm very excited to win," he added. "I like to win, any time I lose it's very difficult to accept.

"So, you can expect a player who will always be fighting, always try to win, in training sessions as well. I will fight to become a better player."

After last season's disappointing Champions League exit at the hands of Villarreal, Bayern Munich are on the verge of transforming their team in one transfer window.

Sadio Mane and Ryan Gravenberch are potentially transformative signings for Bayern, and they apparently are not done just yet.

According to reports, Gravenberch's international team-mate is doing to what he can to force a move to Sabener Strasse.

 

TOP STORY – DE LIGT BAYERN'S TOP TARGET

Bayern Munich are reportedly edging closer to securing the signature of wantaway Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt, according to Bild.

De Ligt is reportedly willing to lower his wage demands in order to help force through a move, after a gap in expectations between the two clubs over the initial offer.

Bayern's proposal to the Bianconeri was reportedly €70million with an extra €10m in bonuses, with the latter looking at €80m as a base to any package.

De Ligt's move to lower wage expectations gives the reigning Bundesliga champions added leverage over Juventus, who after Paulo Dybala's departure, would not want to see another star run down their contract.

 

ROUND-UP

– Chelsea are now targeting PSG centre-back Presnel Kimpembe after almost securing Kalidou Koulibaly's signature, The Guardian reports.

– Meanwhile, Mason Mount is seeking to begin negotiations with the Blues over a new long-term deal, per The Athletic

– Ousmane Dembele is set to sign a new two-year contract with Barcelona after his previous deal expired, Sport is reporting.

– Charles de Ketelaere prefers a move to Milan despite interest from Leeds United for the Club Brugge striker, according to Fabrizio Romano.

 

Barcelona have confirmed they have agreed a deal with Leeds United to sign Raphinha.

The deal is reportedly worth up to €67million (£56.57m). Raphinha's move is subject to a medical being completed.

Chelsea and Arsenal were both heavily linked with the former Sporting CP attacker, with the Blues striking a deal with Leeds in late June to bring the winger to Stamford Bridge.

However, reports suggested that Raphinha was prioritising a move to Barca, with Blaugrana president Joan Laporta announcing "he wants to come".

 

Xavi's side are contending with well-documented financial issues, with Laporta revealing new signings Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen could only be registered after salary adjustments. 

But Barca have seemingly made further alterations to secure the services of Raphinha, who is set to sign a five-year deal.

Raphinha scored 11 times in the Premier League for Leeds in his last season, after netting six goals in the 2020-21 season following his arrival from Rennes.

That marked his best return in front of goal since he struck 15 times in the 2017-18 campaign Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes.

Indeed, since making his Leeds debut, he has directly contributed to 29 Premier League goals, scoring 17 times and managing 12 assists, at least five more than any team-mates in the period.

Xavi will hope Raphinha can continue his scoring form when Barca open their LaLiga campaign at home to Rayo Vallecano on August 13.

Cristiano Ronaldo's future at Manchester United remains unclear after stepping away from their pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia.

The 37-year-old Portuguese has reportedly told United he wants to leave this off-season, although new boss Erik ten Hag said the Portuguese is in their plans for the upcoming campaign.

Ronaldo is one season into a two-year deal at Old Trafford, having re-joined United in August last year.

TOP STORY – RONALDO OFFERED TO PSG IN MESSI LINK-UP

Le Parisien claims that Manchester United's Ronaldo has been offered to French champions Paris Saint-Germain by his agent Jorge Mendes.

PSG, however, were not interested in the 37-year-old as they felt he was not the right fit and would put strain on their bulging wage bill, headlined by Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Mendes has also held talks with Bayern Munich and Chelsea as he seeks a move away from Old Trafford for Ronaldo.

ROUND-UP

–  Chelsea are homing in on a €40 million (£34m) deal for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly with the two parties in talks on a five-year deal, claims Sky Sport Italia. The Blues are looking for defensive reinforcements after Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger's departures.

–  Manchester United are closing in on a deal for Ajax's Lisandro Martinez with negotiations entering key stages reports Fabrizio Romano. The two clubs will meet on Wednesday, with Ajax having turned down United's previous approach, but the Argentinian is keen to move to the Premier League.

– The Telegraph claims that Newcastle United have held discussions with Real Sociedad about a deal for Swedish striker Alexander Isak with the fee believed to be a club record.

Barcelona have agreed to a five-year deal with Raphinha, with the move from Leeds United worth €67m (£55m) according to Fabrizio Romano.

– Marca reports that Real Madrid will beat Barcelona to the signature of 17-year-old Algeciras winger Alvaro Leiva.

Chelsea have reportedly turned their attention to Bayern Munich winger and Germany international Serge Gnabry.

The decision was made to pivot away from Leeds United winger Raphinha after Barcelona seemingly moved into pole position for the Brazil international, with Chelsea then deciding to test the waters for former Arsenal forward Gnabry.

He is coming off his highest-scoring Bundesliga season, having netted 14 goals and contributed six assists in 34 league fixtures, scoring another three goals in the Champions League.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA GEAR UP FOR GNABRY BID

Despite it being widely reported that Chelsea have secured Raheem Sterling from Manchester City for fee of around £45million, the Blues are clearly not satisfied with their winger stocks. 

This was further fuelled by reports the club tried to include Christian Pulisic or Hakim Ziyech along with cash in a deal for Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, with Ziyech now appearing likely to land a move to Milan.

The Daily Mail claims Chelsea have enquired about Gnabry, 26, who debuted with Arsenal as a 17-year-old in 2012, but his time at the Gunners fizzled out with injuries before a loan move to West Brom, resulting in Werder Bremen scooping him up in a bargain £5m move.

He scored 11 goals in his first season in the Bundesliga to earn a move to Bayern, where he has tallied 171 games and 63 goals across four Bundesliga campaigns, winning four consecutive league titles.

ROUND-UP

– The Mirror is reporting that Barcelona's top priority is to sell Frenkie de Jong to fund their move for Leeds' Raphinha, while the Manchester Evening News claims top Manchester United officials are in Spain ironing out the details for the Dutch international's switch to Old Trafford.

– TalkSPORT claims that if United's chase of De Jong falls through, they are prepared to target Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves or Leicester City's Youri Tielemans.

Wolves have rejected an offer worth over £20m from Everton for 22-year-old midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White, according to The Telegraph.

– According to the Irish Independent, 21-year-old Nathan Collins will become the most expensive Irish player ever when he completes his £20.3m move from Burnley to Wolves this week.

– Fabrizio Romano is reporting that Ousmane Dembele has decided to stay on at Barcelona, shunning interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

Club Brugge head coach Carl Hoefkens hopes Milan targets Noa Lang and Charles De Ketelaere will stay with the Belgian champions, but acknowledges transfers for the duo will be arranged "at the right time".

Stefano Pioli's Milan have been strongly linked with both young attackers after they helped Brugge win the 18th league title in their history last season, while Premier League sides Arsenal and Leeds United are reportedly interested in one or both.

Belgium forward De Ketelaere scored 18 goals in all competitions during the 2021-22 season, while Netherlands international Lang added nine goals from out wide.

Both youngsters also featured in every one of Brugge's six Champions League outings last term, while Lang recently declared he wants to "take the next step" amid reports of the Rossoneri's interest.

Hoefkens, who played in the Premier League for West Bromwich Albion before moving into coaching, believes the pair are well-placed to earn their big moves in the future. 

Asked what he told the two players in discussions about their futures, Hoefkens said: "I'd prefer you to stay.

"I try to talk to them casually, I want to know what's going on in their heads. But in my opinion, they are in a position of luxury. 

"They are both incredibly loved and highly regarded here. As a club we will work on a transfer at the right time, but until then they just have to prepare as well as possible, for us or for their new team."

Sanctions placed on Roman Abramovich as a consequence of Russia's invasion of Ukraine plunged Chelsea into uncertainty earlier this year, but an ownership change has seen a degree of stability return.

Despite the departures of Romelu Lukaku, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen this off-season, Todd Boehly's consortium has allowed Chelsea to resume with their preparations for the new season.

And it appears they are close to clinching their first signing of the new era, with a transfer for one of the Premier League's best attackers seemingly imminent.

 

TOP STORY – RAHEEM STERLING SET FOR CHELSEA

Chelsea have reached a deal with Manchester City to sign Raheem Sterling, according to David Ornstein of the Athletic.

The 27-year-old is set to sign a contract until 2027 with the option of an extra season, signalling the first major signing under new ownership.

Starting his senior career with Liverpool, Sterling moved to City in 2015, scoring 131 times in 339 appearances for them in all competitions.

The England international's status under Pep Guardiola became less secure in the past season however, with Phil Foden and Jack Grealish seeing increased time on the left wing.
 

ROUND-UP

– Meanwhile, Barcelona have matched Chelsea's offer of €70.1million (£60m) plus add-ons for Leeds United's Raphinha, Goal is reporting.

– Frenkie de Jong is hoping to remain at Barcelona and will reject an approach from Manchester United, per Sport.

– Bayern Munich have met with the representatives of Matthijs de Ligt, but Juventus are yet to receive an opening bid, according to Fabrizio Romano.

– Brighton and Hove Albion are in talks with Marc Cucurella over an improved deal amid interest from Manchester City, the Athletic reports.

Manchester United have added yet another Ajax product to their wish-list for this transfer period, with 20-year-old striker Brian Brobbey emerging as a new target.

Brobbey came through the Ajax academy when Erik ten Hag was in charge and, after leaving to join RB Leipzig ahead of this past season, he was loaned back to Ajax in a successful move.

After returning to the Dutch giants, Brobbey scored seven goals in 11 Eredivisie fixtures, prompting the club to try and bring him back on a permanent deal.

 

TOP STORY – RED DEVILS SWOOP IN FOR HIGHLY RATED AJAX YOUNGSTER

Brobbey was widely expected to re-join the reigning Eredivisie champions for a fee in the neighbourhood of £13million.

However, the Times is reporting that Ten Hag has caught wind of the move and is hoping to instead coax the promising young striker to Old Trafford.

It is said the deal with Ajax was almost as good as done, so it remains to be seen if he could be convinced to change directions at the 11th hour, but the Times report includes that Ten Hag has been on the phone to Brobbey in an effort to sway him towards the Premier League.

United's interest in Brobbey follows moves for Ajax stars Lisandro Martinez and Antony, with a package-deal for the pair rumoured to be worth north of £100m.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to French publication Media Foot, Arsenal are showing interest in 24-year-old Lyon midfielder Lucas Paqueta, who is also linked with Newcastle United.

– The Mirror is reporting that Barcelona manager Xavi is keen to re-sign Ousmane Dembele to a new contract, but the club's sporting director Mateu Alemany would prefer a move for Leeds United's Raphinha.

Everton are targeting 20-year-old Chelsea striker Armando Broja and 25-year-old Southampton full-back Kyle Walker-Peters, according to The Mirror.

– Fabrizio Romano claims Chelsea have reached personal terms with Manchester City centre-back Nathan Ake, although the final transfer fee, believed to be in the £40m range, is yet to be decided.

– Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that West Ham are considering a £13m move for 23-year-old Roma forward Justin Kluivert, while Goal claims Villarreal winger Arnaut Danjuma told the Hammers he has no interest in moving there.

Chelsea are looking to swoop in and scoop up Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who has been Manchester United's primary midfield target since the appointment of new boss Erik ten Hag.

De Jong, 25, has 44 international caps for the Netherlands, and has spent the past three seasons with the Spanish giants.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has been adamant the club does not want to part ways with the star they paid €75million for back in 2019, but the club's financial position may force their hand.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA LOOK TO STEAL UNITED TARGET WITH CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ALLURE

De Jong is reportedly been hesitant about a move to United due to the fact that they could not offer Champions League football, and that is where Chelsea will have their advantage in negotiations.

The Metro is reporting the Stamford Bridge club are preparing an offer that will include both players and cash, with €60million as well as Spanish duo Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso said to be on the table.

The elephant in the room regarding a De Jong move is that Barcelona reportedly owe the Dutchman £17m in deferred wages, and the Daily Mail claims he wants the balance fully paid before he signs off on any transfer.

 

ROUND-UP

United have been told they will need to pay £106m in order to secure the signings of Ajax duo Lisandro Martinez and Antony, according to the Daily Record.

– According to i Sport, Chelsea are working on a new contract extension for Reece James, despite three years still remaining on his current deal, in an effort to fend off interest from Manchester City and Real Madrid.

– The Daily Mail is reporting Wolves will send 19-year-old Fabio Silva on a season-long loan to Anderlecht after purchasing him for £35m two years ago.

– The Mirror claims Leeds United are preparing a club-record offer of £32m for 21-year-old Club Brugge midfielder Charles De Ketelaere, who already has eight senior international caps for Belgium.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, the likely departure of Raheem Sterling has put City in a position to offer Riyad Mahrez a contract extension.

Jesse Marsch has revealed Raphinha is showing "urgency" in trying to secure a move away from Leeds United, and could miss the club's upcoming pre-season tour of Australia amid links to Barcelona.

Raphinha has become the subject of a high-profile transfer tussle since helping Leeds secure Premier League safety on the final day of last season, with Barca, Chelsea and Arsenal touted as possible destinations.

Chelsea appeared set to secure the tricky wideman's signature after reportedly agreeing to a deal worth over £60million last week, but that move has stalled amid Raphinha's apparent desire to join Barca.

Blaugrana president Joan Laporta is certain of Raphinha's intention to move to Camp Nou, announcing on Saturday: "He wants to come".

Raphinha returned for pre-season training with Marsch's side on Thursday, but did not feature in their 4-0 friendly win over Blackpool in York, after which the American said the winger's presence on their upcoming tour – which begins on Sunday – was uncertain.

 

"My guess is… I don't know [if he will travel]," Marsch said. "We just have to wait and see what happens in the next couple of days.

"There's urgency from his end, I think, to come up with a solution. We have to in the next couple of days see how things stand and see how we go.

"It hasn't been an easy time for him this summer. Things have come and gone and there have been a lot of little discussions. Right now he's our player.

"He showed up today and trained with everybody, he had such a good attitude. We had a very open and honest conversation about while he's here, he's part of us, and then we'll see what happens. It's still a long way to go in the transfer window.

"I know he has hopes and dreams. I know he loves this team and this club and he loves being here. We'll see how things progress day by day."

Leeds secured the signing of Feyenoord winger Luis Sinisterra for a reported fee of £21.3million (€25m) on Thursday, in a sign the Yorkshire club could be planning for life without the Brazilian.

But Barcelona must overcome their financial difficulties in order to strike a deal for Raphinha, with Laporta acknowledging this week that salary adjustments were necessary in order for the Blaugrana to register new signings Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen. 

Leeds United have confirmed the signing of Colombia international Luis Sinisterra from Feyenoord, with the 23-year-old penning a five-year deal at Elland Road.

The winger, who is the sixth capture of a busy off-season for the Whites, joins for a reported fee of £21.3million (€25m).

Sinisterra follows United States duo Brendan Aaronson and Tyler Adams, Denmark's Rasmus Kristensen and the pair of Marc Roca and Darko Gyabi through the door at Elland Road.

Leeds have moved to bolster their squad having survived relegation only on the final day last season and then lost Kalvin Phillips to Manchester City, with Brazil winger Raphinha's departure also anticipated.

Sinisterra, who registered 23 goals and 14 assists in 49 games last term for Feyenoord, will add to Jesse Marsch's wide options alongside Aaronson, Daniel James and Jack Harrison.

"I am very happy to be here in this beautiful club," Sinisterra said.

"I know it's a historic club with beautiful fans. I heard a lot of things about the stadium and atmosphere, it's amazing, so I can't wait to feel that in person.

"It was my dream when I was a child [to play in the Premier League], right now I am close to making that. Of course, I will work to bring quality to Leeds.

"This is my feeling, that I want to do the same or even more for this team and for the fans.

"I think it is also one of my characteristics, to enjoy and make the fans happy with my skills, my quality, and hopefully I can do that here at Elland Road."

Leeds United have confirmed the signing of United States international Tyler Adams from RB Leipzig, with the 23-year-old penning a five-year deal at Elland Road.

Adams, who has 30 caps for his country, joins for a reported fee of around £20million after Leeds sold Kalvin Phillips to Manchester City on Monday.

He represents Leeds' fifth signing of the transfer window, after Brenden Aaronson, Rasmus Kristensen, Marc Roca and Darko Gyabi, as Jesse Marsch's side look to build on securing Premier League survival on the final day of last season.

Speaking to the club's website, Adams said he was excited to link up with several familiar faces at the Yorkshire club, having played under Marsch at Leipzig and New York Red Bulls.

"I am super excited," he said. "So far what I have heard is that it's electric here. 

"Talking to my friends who have played in the Premier League, they say it’s one of the best atmospheres they have ever played in. Now to have those fans supporting me, it's going to be something special.

"Jesse was a huge influence on my career so far, he's given me a lot of experiences as a young player that other players may not have received. 

"So, he was definitely a big influence and so was [director of football] Victor Orta, he played a big role for me. There wasn't much convincing he needed to do for me to come here, but he had a great plan in place for me to develop as a person and a player.

"Then Brenden Aaronson, we play together for the national team; Jack Harrison I've had the opportunity to play against him a bunch of times, and he's a great player, so they made me really comfortable on my first day."

Adams made 24 appearances as Leipzig finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season and will be expected to replace the ball-winning qualities of Phillips, who recovered possession an average of 10.2 times per 90 minutes in the Premier League last season, the highest average of any player with 900+ minutes played in the competition.

"He wants to come."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta did not mince his words when speaking about the possibility of the Blaugrana signing Raphinha.

Last week, Chelsea struck a deal with Leeds United – reported to be worth around £55million with add-ons taking the total fee to more than £60m – to take the Brazil winger from Elland Road to Stamford Bridge.

That agreement seemingly saw Chelsea pip London rivals Arsenal to the post after a high-profile pursuit.

Yet a deal that seemed set for a swift resolution has, as of yet, not been completed, and that is because, if Laporta is to be believed, the 25-year-old is prioritising a switch not to Stamford Bridge, but Camp Nou.

Barca have been consistently linked to Raphinha, who has established himself as one of the most exciting attackers in the Premier League since his move to Leeds from Rennes in September 2020.

Yet Laporta acknowledged that, despite Raphinha's wish to join Barca – whose financial issues make matching Chelsea's offer to Leeds problematic – the race is not won.

"We've spoken to Leeds, I don't think they will be offended," he explained. "We have communication and we have spoken personally. 

"What happens is that there are other clubs that want Raphinha and they are making their proposals."

At this stage, it does seem to be a two-horse race. Previously, with Barca's interest having seemed to have cooled, Arsenal looked well set to beat their rivals Tottenham to the winger, but it was then Chelsea who stole a march.

Bayern Munich have been credited with an interest in the past, but Sadio Mane's switch to Bavaria has ruled the German champions out.

But just why has Raphinha, a somewhat under-the-radar arrival in Yorkshire under two years ago, been so coveted?
 

Brazilian stardust meets street fighter spirit

Brazil. The home of the Copacabana, festivals and beautiful football. Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Pele, Kaka, Neymar, Zico, Socrates... the list of world-class talent produced by the South American nation is endless. They are five-time world champions for a reason.

But while Brazilian flair remains in abundance, the most recent success stories when it comes to the players that have struck gold, in the Premier League at least, have been those who have merged that national talent with steel, grit and robustness perhaps more associated with the likes of Argentina, Uruguay or the northern European nations.

Raphinha fits that bill, and like Premier League-based compatriots Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison, always seemed set to move for pastures new this off-season.

His talent cannot be doubted. Since making his Leeds debut, he has directly contributed to 29 Premier League goals, scoring 17 times and providing 12 assists, at least five more than any team-mates in the period.

 

The variety of his strikes has also been hugely impressive, with seven of his league goals for Leeds coming from outside the area. Only one player – Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse – can boast a better total (nine) in the same time frame.

Raphinha's 11 league goals last season marked his best performance since the 15 he netted in the 2017-18 campaign, when he played for Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal. He did not score as freely for Sporting CP, and only managed seven goals during his sole full season with Rennes in France.

Leeds' system, particularly under former manager Marcelo Bielsa and even still under Jesse Marsch, is physically demanding.

Raphinha, however, proved more than up to the task. Indeed, last season, he was a standout performer when it came to both targeted off-ball runs into the final third, and the number of sprints made per 90 minutes. 

A tireless runner, Raphinha offers both sides of the game.

He compares competitively when stacked up against Tottenham new boy Richarlison, one of the hardest working wide players in the Premier League across his time with Everton and a player that Raphinha competes with for a place in the Brazil side.

Raphinha's duel success rate of 42.6 per cent falls just short of Richarlison's 43.4 per cent, since the winger's league debut for Leeds on October 19, 2020, while the pair have won the same number of tackles (42), albeit Richarlison's success percentage of 59.7 compared to Raphinha's 54.1 puts him ahead in that regard.

Nevertheless, whichever club gets Raphinha is buying not just attacking output, but defensive steel.
 

Top-class creativity 

As mentioned, Raphinha's attacking output is up there with the best the Premier League has had to offer in recent seasons, especially when Leeds' struggles last season are taken into account.

Only four forwards have created more goals in the competition than Raphinha since his Premier League debut, and just one – Tottenham star Son Heung-min (131) – has created more chances in total than his tally of 129.

Of those opportunities, 85 came from open play, ranking him third in the division's attackers behind Mane (93) and Mohamed Salah (101), with his 22 big chances trailing only Salah and Harry Kane (both 26).

 

Raphinha has attempted 286 dribbles, the third-highest total in the league behind Adama Traore and Allan Saint-Maximin, though his success rate (41.3) trails some way behind that duo.

Four forwards had more than Raphinha's 155 shots, though his conversion rate of just under 11 per cent shows an area of improvement if he is to succeed at one of Europe's elite clubs.
 

World Cup hopes

It was in Portugal, not his homeland, that Raphinha made his name, but ahead of Qatar 2022, he seems a shoo-in to make Tite's squad.

He has won nine caps since his first selection in October last year, when he assisted twice on just his second appearance in a 3-1 win over Venezuela before scoring twice on his full debut in a 4-1 rout of Uruguay. Raphinha's third international strike came in a 4-0 defeat of Paraguay.

While a place on the plane to Qatar should be secured, barring injury, Raphinha will be determined to ensure he is fighting for a place in Tite's starting XI.

Brazil's coach has plenty of options to choose from for both flanks; the aforementioned Richarlison and Jesus can play central or wide, while Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior is surely a certainty to start on the left. Ajax's Antony, Madrid's Rodrygo and Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli and Everton, now back in Brazil with Flamengo, are all likely to be in that fight, too. 

Should he get his move to either London or Barcelona, Raphinha will get the opportunity to show Tite he truly can perform on the biggest stage.

Kalvin Phillips is "incredibly excited" by the prospect of working under Pep Guardiola after completing his move to "world-class club" Manchester City on Monday.   The England midfielder joined from Leeds United on a six-year deal at the Etihad Stadium and is the Premier League champions' third signing of the window after Erling Haaland and Stefan Ortega.   Phillips had been with his home club since the age of 14 but the opportunity to work with one of the game's greatest coaches was an opportunity that was too good to pass up.   "City have again proved to be the best team in the country with an amazing squad and a manager in Pep Guardiola who is rightly considered to be the finest in the world," Phillips told the club's website.   "To be able to play under Pep and learn from him and his coaching staff as well as be part of a such a fantastic squad is a prospect that I am incredibly excited about.    "City are a world-class club with world-class staff and facilities and it’s a dream come true to have joined the club.    "Now I can't wait to get started and to look to try and help the team to go on and achieve more success."

The departure of the midfielder brings to a close a 12-year association with Leeds, whom he came through the academy system with, and helped steer back to the Premier League in the 2019-2020 campaign.

Phillips addressed the club and its supporters in a lengthy statement on social media shortly after the confirmation of his transfer, thanking them all and reserving additional praise for former boss Marcelo Bielsa.

The Argentine, who guided Leeds back to the top-flight before he was relieved of duties earlier this year, is widely credited with turning the midfielder into one of the sharpest talents in the English game.

"I would like to express how much of a privilege it has been to play for this amazing club," Phillips stated. "Since making my debut at 17, it has been a journey any Leeds lad could wish for.

"When I was young, I went to see my first ever Leeds game at Elland Road and from that moment, I knew that my dream was to put on that white shirt and walk out on that pitch.

"I'd like to thank everyone involved at the club for making Leeds one of the best clubs on earth. Every manager I have played under for showing trust in me and teaching me all I know.

"I cannot mention Leeds without mentioning one special person - Marcelo. [You are] the best manager I have ever come across.

"He was a man that gave the club life, he gave the players, and everyone involved in the club belief that we were good enough to return to the Premier League."

Phillips' arrival at the Etihad Stadium came on the same day that Gabriel Jesus completed a £45million switch to Arsenal.

Leeds also confirmed on Monday that 18-year-old midfielder Darko Gyabi has joined the club from City for an undisclosed fee in a separate deal to the one involving Phillips.

The youngster played 10 times for City's Under-23 side last season and has been capped 12 times by England at youth level.

Gyabi becomes Leeds' fourth signing of the window, following the arrivals of Brenden Aaronson, Rasmus Kristensen and Marc Roca.

When it comes to recruitment and squad construction, there aren't many clubs – if any – that are run more effectively than Manchester City.

Their Premier League title success in the 2021-22 season was just another reminder of how good they are on the pitch, yet the people in charge are not the types to simply sit around admiring their achievements.

Even before winning a fourth Premier League crown in five years – a feat only ever previously managed by Alex Ferguson's Manchester United – it was clear where City were going to strengthen.

A deal for arguably the most sought-after striker in world football, Erling Haaland, was wrapped up two weeks before the season ended, and then with Fernandinho expected to depart, another central midfielder was to be the second priority.

Kalvin Phillips proved to be the chosen one, with City confirming on Monday that the England international has completed his reported £45million move from Leeds United, having undergone a medical on Friday.

It's an impressive statement by City, who have already bolstered their two primary problem areas – if you can call them that – by the first week of July.

And with respect to Phillips' signing, there's a lot to suggest it's a shrewd acquisition.

 

Moulded by Bielsa

Of course, the most obvious – and arguably crucial – link here is Marcelo Bielsa. It was under the Argentinian coach that Phillips has played the best football of his career and cemented himself as an England regular.

Bielsa is also considered one of Pep Guardiola's greatest inspirations, with an apparent 11-hour meeting between the pair back in 2006 said to have played a major role in the City boss' decision to go into management.

The similarities between the two coaches' styles of play are significant, and this should facilitate a smooth transition for Phillips.

Under Bielsa he'll have become accustomed to not only intense training sessions, but also a playing philosophy that revolves around possession-based football and relentless counter pressing.

In terms of the latter, City are perhaps a little more considered in their efforts compared to Bielsa's Leeds, but either way Phillips has been exposed to the same fundamentals, and that can only be a tick in the pros column.

After all, a second-season bounce has become commonplace for signings under Guardiola. Numerous players have needed a full campaign to truly get to grips with the demands required by the Catalan coach before going on to show significant improvement and growth thereafter – Phillips might be better-equipped than most to hit the ground running.

But that brings up a separate issue; what will Phillips be to City?

Rodri the immovable object

Having come through Leeds' academy, established himself as a key player and then gone on to be a fulcrum in Bielsa's team, Phillips was the first name on the teamsheet – when fit – for several years at Elland Road.

Regardless of his suitability for City, it seems unlikely he'll enjoy a similar status in Guardiola's team. Phillips is at his most effective as lone defensive midfielder, but so too is Rodri, and it's difficult to imagine the Spain international being suddenly taken out of the team given how effective he's proven to be.

Rodri's 2,937 successful passes in the opposition's half since the start of the 2020-21 season is over 400 more than any other Premier League player, and his 577 ball recoveries over the same period is the joint-most alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, though the Dane has played almost 1,000 minutes more.

Of course, who's to say Phillips couldn't play the role even more effectively? But the key thing to consider is that Rodri has an important function in both keeping City on the ball and then winning it back when they don't, and he demonstrably does both well.

Nevertheless, Guardiola's proven he's a coach keen to rotate. He gave at least 900 minutes of Premier League football to 18 players last season, with only four teams bettering that, so Phillips can still expect plenty of game time.

And, to be fair, Phillips might not have even been up to the task of being a regular starter for City given how much time he spent sidelined last season.

A match made in heaven

Clearly, then, Guardiola's rotation policy would suggest Phillips will have opportunities to deputise for Rodri and take up the back-up role vacated by Fernandinho, yet there's no doubt he possesses the skillset to also play alongside the former Atletico Madrid midfielder as well.

First and foremost, he's a more progressive player than Rodri. Over the past two seasons, 28 per cent of Phillips' passes have been forward, the exact same figure as Fernandinho and a fair bit more than Rodri's 20 per cent.

Similarly, in the same period Phillips has played 3.5 passes into the box every 90 minutes, whereas Rodri has averaged two, and his 1.0 dribble attempts each game is also slightly more than his new team-mate (0.9).

But in a way it shouldn't necessarily matter which midfield role Phillips plays in, given he has a range of abilities that should suit him either as a number six or a number eight, especially in a Guardiola team.

On top of that, Phillips doesn't turn 27 until December, so he is very much entering his prime years, and if anyone can squeeze every ounce of potential out of a player, it's Guardiola.

Then when you consider Phillips' history with Bielsa and type of team he played in at Leeds, everything points to this being a match made in heaven.

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