Raphinha's Crystal Palace demolition job proves Liverpool links are merited

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There wouldn’t have been many neutrals buzzing at the prospect of watching Leeds take on Crystal Palace on Monday evening.

On the face of it, it was a bland, mid-table encounter, suitable for 90 minutes of throwaway viewing, but not much else.

We weren’t about to see, say, any spinning nutmegs, ridiculous chipped through balls, or wild slaloming runs that caused Martin Tyler to clutch his chest in disbelief.

Except no-one told Raphinha it wasn’t the time or the place for those wonderful things.

The Brazilian winger decided he was about to channel peak Ronaldinho and drop the jaws of anyone who tuned in for their Monday evening Premier League fix. It helped Leeds to a big win that moved them into the top half of the table, but what it may not have helped was the Whites’ chances of holding onto him beyond the summer.

A £17m summer signing from Stade Rennais, the electric winger has taken to English football like a duck to water, and has already earned links with Liverpool. Reports in France say the Reds are scouting the 24-year-old since his arrival, and have been impressed enough to place him near the top of their summer shortlist.

The reports gained credence when addressed by The Athletic’s Phil Hay, who said in a Q&A on Monday that he would not come in the cheap given his fast start.

Raphinha was in fine form against Crystal Palace | Pool/Getty Images

He said: “Everyone will be watching Raphinha. You can’t make this sort of impact and not have people on your case, but he’s on a longer contract and he would cost a lot of money.”

The onlookers from Anfield were said to have been ‘blown away’ by Raphinha’s development since arriving in England, and that was before he delivered one of the best individual performances you are likely to see at Elland Road this season.

Everything he did was picture perfect, standing out all the more against the back-drop of an otherwise attritional encounter. The quality of his first touch looked out of place, and while most of the post-match discourse focused around Patrick Bamford and his 100th career goal, the forward spent much of his own post-match interview raving about his teammate.

Jamie Carragher joked that Bamford’s assessment was so shining that he might have sold him. But Raphinha doesn’t exactly need the help: he sold himself with every touch he took on Monday evening.

Leeds are in a good position, especially if it is Liverpool who are leading the race. The going rate for forwards is exorbitant, and if Wolves can take £40m from the Anfield giants for Diogo Jota, then who knows what Leeds could reasonably ask for in exchange for their talisman who looks increasingly capable of taking teams apart by himself?

If they’re not sure yet, they better get the calculators out, because at this rate, it won’t be long before the concrete offers arrive.

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