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Marcelo Bielsa: Raphinha’s next ‘great challenge’ is to help Leeds team improve

Marcelo Bielsa
(Image credit: Mike Egerton)

Marcelo Bielsa feels Brazil winger Raphinha’s next “great challenge” is to help improve Leeds as a team.

Raphinha has quickly established himself as one of the Premier League’s most potent forwards and Bielsa hopes the 24-year-old can help lift his team-mates to a similar level.

Bielsa said: “If you asked me how do I imagine his evolution, I would say to maintain regularly performances like the ones he is achieving would be a great indicator.

“The other great challenge that the players who shine have is to transfer that evolution to his team-mates and to the team.

“He is sufficiently good right now. Raphinha will be a lot better if the team is better and if his team-mates are better.”

Raphinha, signed from Rennes in October 2020 for a reported £17million plus add-ons, is Leeds’ top scorer this season, with five league goals in 10 appearances.

The Brazilian has also had a stunning impact on his national side, scoring two goals on his full debut in a 4-1 World Cup qualifying win against Uruguay in October.

That display prompted Brazil head coach Tite to publicly thank Bielsa for his part in helping to develop the player.

Bielsa added: “This, what I say, is not a conclusion that is elaborated by myself, but it is a conclusion that comes from the players who shine.

“They start by unbalancing (opposing sides) by themselves, they manage to facilitate how their team-mates perform and that development of the collective game improves the team that they belong to, that contains them, and that process is a great challenge.”

Raphinha will continue to carry extra weight on his shoulders on Sunday in the absence of striker Patrick Bamford when Leeds play at Tottenham.

Bamford is set to miss his ninth straight game in all competitions due to a troublesome ankle injury, while new Tottenham boss Antonio Conte will take charge of his first home game for the club.

Bielsa was unable to put a timeframe on Bamford’s recovery, nor that of defender Luke Ayling, who had minor knee surgery in early October.

“Their evolution is controlled on a daily basis,” Bielsa added. “I don’t want to give you a date for them which won’t be met.

“That’s why my responses are brief, I can’t offer any certainty.”

Junior Firpo and Jamie Shackleton are closing in on their returns, but Germany defender Robin Koch is still working his way back after a knee operation in December.