Fabinho praised the impact made by Raphinha since arriving in the Premier League and says he expected the Leeds United winger to join Liverpool earlier this year.
Raphinha has starred for Leeds since arriving from Rennes for a reported £17million (€20m) in October 2020 and was rewarded with his first cap for Brazil last week. The 24-year-old further enhanced his reputation with two goals, while also winning a penalty, in a 3-1 World Cup qualifying victory against Venezuela. He also featured as a second-half substitute in Brazil's stalemate with Colombia and is in contention to play a part in Thursday's clash with Uruguay.
Fabinho, who played a full the full 90 minutes in those two previous matches, has been particularly impressed by what he has seen from his international team-mate at club level. "Since he arrived in the Premier League, he has been performing and standing out very well at Leeds," Fabinho told reporters. "Even in the summer transfer market, there was some talk that he could go to Liverpool. I even expected that to happen, but he stayed at Leeds."
Indeed, Raphinha's agent Deco has confirmed Liverpool showed an interest in the winger during the most recent transfer window without making a formal move. "He's an important player," Deco told Brazilian outlet O Globo. "There are certainly several clubs that like him, and Liverpool do like him. There were approaches, but nothing official. Leeds wanted to keep him for another season."
That interest from Liverpool came on the back of a debut campaign in English football that saw Raphinha score six goals and assist nine more in the Premier League. Only five others assisted more goals in the division last term, and while he has yet to set up a goal this campaign.
The ex-Sporting CP attacker already has three league goals to his name in 2021-22, coming from 24 shots, while only four others in the league have attempted more dribbles – a list topped by Wolves' Adama Traore (61). With Raphinha poised to feature for Brazil some 36 hours before Leeds' meeting with Southampton, however, Marcelo Bielsa faces being without his most influential attacker this weekend.
"There is no doubt that it's a short turnaround," Bielsa said at his pre-match news conference on Thursday. "The options he has to participate in the game on Saturday depends on whether he plays this final game tonight, how many minutes he plays, how he finishes the game after participating in it and how efficient his rest in the next 36 hours is. Considering that a third of those hours he will spend on a flight and if there is any risk that fatigue could cause injuries, then we won't risk it. There are so many aspects to consider that I can't offer you any certainty either way."
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