The 25-year-old scored the Whites’ opening goal as they beat Brentford 2-1 on the final day of the season to avoid the drop.
Leeds had gone into the final day level on points with Burnley but well behind on goal difference. However, the Clarets lost 2-1 at home to Newcastle United, surrendering 17th spot to Jesse Marsch’s team.
Shortly after the end of the club campaign, Raphinha jetted off to Brazil for his country’s friendlies against South Korea, Japan and Argentina.
Whelan, who came through the youth ranks at Leeds and made 53 senior appearances between 1993 and 1995, says Raphinha will have been energised by the team’s final day heroics. The 47-year-old added that the winger would have joined up with Brazil in a rueful mood had the Whites been relegated, but ‘now he can just enjoy the break’.
Speaking to Football Insider, the former Elland Road striker said of Raphinha: “I think if results hadn’t gone our way on the final day, he might have a slightly different mindset. He might have that bit more mental fatigue and have been a bit more run down.
“But to finish the season the way he did on the final day, winning the massive game and staying up – I think that takes you into the break in a different mindset altogether.
“You’re happy, you’re buzzing, the pressure’s not there. Now he can just enjoy the break and playing for his country.
“I think we would be seeing a whole different Raphinha had things gone differently on the final day. Staying up like that has got to give you a huge boost going into the international games.”
Raphinha played 78 minutes in the 5-1 victory over South Korea and then clocked another 63 minutes as Brazil beat Japan 1-0. National outlet Globo Esporte rated him 6 out of 10 in the first game, suggesting that he could have been more ruthless in the final third and that he frustrated his manager.
However, the 25-year-old can be forgiven if there has been a dip in his on-field performances, having given everything to Leeds’ survival push. He led Marsch’s squad for goal involvements with 14 (11 goals, three assists), while his defensive numbers – 17.7 pressures, 1.7 tackles, 1.3 interceptions, 1.82 blocks and 0.7 clearances per game – show just how hard he worked out of possession.
Leeds fans will hope that the experience has strengthened his bond with the club to the extent that he’ll decide to stay. Indeed, Raphinha climbed into the away end at the Brentford Community Stadium to celebrate with the supporters on that dramatic final day of the league campaign.
Barcelona are pursuing his signature, with the La Liga club’s director of football Mateu Alemany reportedly deciding to travel to England for talks over a potential transfer. Hopefully his trip will prove to be in vain.
In other news, Leeds are working on another summer transfer
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