Chelsea will secure their first signing of the summer transfer window when they finalise a deal for Leeds winger Raphinha.
Raphinha is headed to Stamford Bridge in a deal worth up to £65 million including add-ons, after Chelsea swooped in and pipped interest from Arsenal, Tottenham and Barcelona, per Fabrizio Romano on Twitter.
The Brazilian becomes the first signing completed by new majority owner Todd Boehly, who has taken on football director duties following a boardroom clear-out at the club.
And what a signing it could well prove to be. Raphinha, valued at £40.5m on Transfermarkt, has lit up the Premier League since arriving to the top flight with Leeds, with his unrelenting skill, wicked technical ability and consistent knack for churning out goals, assists and moments of magic.
His flair and ruthless output is exactly what kept Leeds going in attack so often last season, making a summer bidding war inevitable regardless of whether or not they remained in the Premier League. It’s clear to see the 25-year-old is a star in the making and waiting for an opportunity at the top, thus it will be interesting to watch him in a side like Chelsea, who are shaping a new-look attack for 2022/23.
Following the failed Romelu Lukaku transfer and his subsequent loan return to Inter, Chelsea have had to rethink their attacking options heading into the new season, with the Belgian proving ineffective in their bid to challenge for the Premier League title.
Raheem Sterling continues to be linked with the Blues as a result, but a deal for the England and Manchester City star still feels some way off. Raphinha, though, is as good as done, with Romano giving it the green light.
He immediately adds a completely new element to Thomas Tuchel’s side, and has suddenly given Chelsea’s attacking options a much-needed breath of fresh air heading into the new season. So, with that said, let’s take a look at how Tuchel could work in his exciting new Brazilian winger.
1. Chelsea’s most lethal front four
Starting off strong, this is probably as strong a front four Chelsea could field at the moment. Reliant on the fluidity and movement between attackers that Tuchel is so keen on, Chelsea look at their most ruthless when inverting, creating space for wing backs and keeping positional play flexible.
Raphinha slots in perfectly as an inverted danger man, capable of taking players on inside and providing space for Reece James to operate in. Timo Werner and Kai Havertz‘ movement is always a threat, while Mason Mount is at his best in a more central position with space to play passes into. Lethal.
2. False nine
In an age where the traditional number nine role is proving less and less useful, Chelsea can benefit from operating with a false nine more regularly next season.
Mount starting in the role would be a new prospect, but dropping off and leaving space for Havertz to exploit and giving himself the room to feed Raphinha in behind could well be delightful. Pop the German into the central role, and you’re onto just as much of a winner. Will take some getting used to, but it could be the future.
3. Life without Havertz
It’s fair to say that Havertz has quickly become Chelsea’s attacking lynchpin after a slow start. But, he can’t play every game. Be it injury, suspension or just for the sake of rotation, Raphinha’s unrelenting ability in advanced areas has boosted Chelsea massively in rotating their front line.
Mount starts in the ‘wide’ role here, but as we know he operates best centrally, we’ve deployed him with the intention of giving him the role of an inverted winger, playing in the half space. Werner has the freedom to run the operations against the back line, and can pair up with the Brazilian new boy nicely in what could become a formidable duo.
So, there you have it. Three ways in which Chelsea can set up with Raphinha in the XI, and they all have the potential to cause serious nightmares for defenders.
And that’s before you even think about moving into a back four and deploying Raphinha as a wide man, or consider the very real possibility that Chelsea further strengthen their attack with Sterling and possibly even Ousmane Dembele, if they’re feeling incredibly adventurous.