Analysis: Should Barcelona get their money back for Raphinha?

Barcelona’s embarrassment of attacking riches was painted as their big advantage this summer, when they finished the transfer market with six quality options. Yet so far, it hasn’t been a unanimous success.

One of their strikers has – Robert Lewandowski. Barcelona went all in for the 34-year-old and got their man, bringing 18 goals and 4 assists in just 20 games for the Blaugrana.

Memphis Depay has been the opposite case, having barely played all season for the Blaugrana, although in part due to injury. The Dutchman’s future appears to be elsewhere though, with his contract up in the summer. Despite declaring that he would be important, Xavi Hernandez has used him sparingly.

Fans continue to wait for the Ansu Fati that they saw before his serious knee injury. The 20-year-old had full medical clearance at the end of last season, but still looks some way off the pace, excepting flashes of goalscoring instinct.

Ousmane Dembele was brought back in July, signing a new deal when everyone expected him to leave. Xavi has backed him over any other wide forward, giving him protagonism and despite his typical erraticism, receiving production in return.

Signed for €55m last summer, Ferran Torres continues to frustrate fans with his lack of clinical touch in the final third. Often causing defenses issues with his movement, frequently, he solves the problem for the defense himself.

Then there is Raphinha. Brought in for a further €58m from Leeds United, the Brazilian has flattered to deceive so far. Scoring twice and assisting four times in 21 appearances, he has started just 10 of Barcelona’s 23 fixtures.

In total, only Lewandowski and Dembele have benefitted so far, with the others lacking confidence and continuity.

According to Sport, Barcelona are not concerned about Rahinha’s situation, as they believe in his ability to come good. However they are also conscious that there are Premier League clubs willing to pay the same money to take him back to England.

Raphinha has come up with a couple of big moments, including his work against Inter the home tie in the Champions League and his header against Osasuna, which won the game for Barcelona. His work ethic on the whole is outstanding and he in theory was a smart option to replace Dembele on the right.

Being as Dembele stayed though, and given Xavi’s patronage of the Frenchman, it has left Raphinha in limbo. The Brazilian told Xavi that he would far rather play and compete for his spot on the right, rather than move to the left, which has effectively relegated him to the bench. It is a battle Dembele is winning.

The question is, should Barcelona hang onto him? At €58m, he is far too expensive to be a substitute and yet with Xavi as manager, it is hard to see him playing ahead of Dembele. If the Frenchman does depart, then his presence would be far more logical.

Also more comfortable on the right, Torres disputes those minutes with Raphinha too, although he is far more versatile. Keeping Raphinha would mean the sale of Dembele in the summer or adapting one of them to a different position, neither of which seems likely.

While Barcelona would likely be happy to keep him, and depth is increasingly important in football, it does seem a questionable allocation of resources, especially when they are so tight in Catalonia. Barcelona are tight up against their salary limit and a major sale in the summer would allow Mateu Alemany to address areas of greater need in the squad.

There is no doubt that Raphinha is yet to show his best form at Camp Nou. If they can unlock that, then the argument shifts, and he could be a key asset. Yet there is an inescapable feeling that only one of Dembele or Raphinha was supposed to be at Barcelona this summer, and little has happened to dispel that notion.

A sale would mark a slight blow in terms of image, and it would make many uneasy to cut loose a player who deliberately rejected all offers in order to head to Barcelona after just a single season. If they could bring in a similar fee though, it would make it rather easy for the club to pull the trigger.

On the face of it, Raphinha is too good and too expensive to be on the bench, but not quite good enough to start. A lot of this will of course depend on the player’s mindset, and how much he wants a starting role. Yet if Barcelona could have their money back and give those rotational minutes on the right to Torres, logic is no impediment to a deal.

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