Leeds United will struggle to keep hold of talismanic winger Raphinha, as he could play “right at the top”, according to former defender Jonathan Woodgate.
The Brazil international was linked with a big-money move to West Ham in January but has remained at Elland Road, where Leeds face a survival bid.
Only three Premier League players have scored more than Raphinha’s eight this season, while he also has two assists, having a hand in 10 of Leeds’ 24 goals.
The 25-year-old is excelling on the international stage, too, with three goals and two assists in World Cup qualifying.
In South America, among players with five or more starts, only Neymar (67.5) is averaging fewer minutes per non-penalty goal or assist than Raphinha (84.6).
Woodgate therefore expects bigger clubs than West Ham to come calling at the end of the season.
“[He could play] right at the top. He could play for Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea – not a problem,” Woodgate told Stats Perform. “He is outstanding.
“What a signing he’s been. They’ve done a great job on the recruitment side of it to get Raphinha in, and you can see how quick he is, how much he works, but he brings assists and goals with that work rate.
“If you look at wingers, the first thing I look at is how many does he score and how many does he assist, and the bonus is he absolutely works so hard for that team.
1 – Raphinha is the first Leeds United player to score for Brazil in history. Dream. pic.twitter.com/YZYc3x0hSQ
— OptaJoao (@OptaJoao) October 15, 2021
“That could be a struggle to keep hold of them if a massive bid comes in for him, which I expect in the summer.
“He was getting linked with different clubs this [January] transfer window, but if a top team comes in for him, it’ll be hard to keep him.”
West Ham were also linked with Kalvin Phillips, and Woodgate foresees similar issues with his future.
“Again, he could play right at the top,” he said. You saw it in at the Euros, but then you look at how much he’s developed under Marcelo Bielsa.
“It’s flabbergasting to see the improvement in that player since Bielsa came in. It’s extraordinary. He’s worked so hard on his game.
“It takes buy-in from the player as well, so you’ve got to congratulate Kalvin Phillips on what he’s done, but the work Bielsa has done with him, he’s turned him into an outstanding holding midfielder.
“He’s getting in the England squad, getting to the final of the Euros playing week in, week out for Leeds. Again, they need to try and keep him.
“How would you keep players? By buying other top players into your club to supplement that and see if you can climb up the league. A bit like we did when I was at Leeds, we kept on buying top players to get to that next level.”