The Brazilian winger has been a target for Chelsea throughout the season but their efforts took a blow this year.
Chelsea’s attempts to sign Raphinha from Leeds United were dealt a blow earlier this year when club owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government. The Russian had his assets frozen after being adjudged to have kept a close relationship with Vladimir Putin, something Abramovich has always denied.
Nevertheless, the sanctions stuck and Chelsea were suddenly limited in what they could do on a day-to-day basis. While a special license was granted to continue the payment of players and staff, all transfer and contract negotiations were halted immediately.
Thomas Tuchel has already bemoaned those restrictions as a reason for the Blues losing Antonio Rudiger to Real Madrid, with the centre-back set to move to the Bernabeu on a free transfer in the summer. Andreas Christensen is likely to follow suit after also failing to agree terms on a new deal.
“The situation is that he [Rudiger] wants to leave the club. He informed me of this in a private talk,” Tuchel told Sky Sports after Chelsea’s 1-0 win against West Ham “We gave everything – me and the club – but we could not fight anymore because of the actions. Without the sanctions we would at least be able to carry on fighting, but our hands are tied. We don’t take it personally. It is his decision.”
Tuchel is set for a make or break summer with a number of key transfers needed as he looks to narrow the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool at the top of the Premier League. Other than a number of new defenders, midfield and attacking reinforcements are also on the cards.
One such target is Leeds United winger Raphinha. The Brazilian played the full 90 minutes as Jesse Marsch’s side played their final home game of the season on Sunday as they look to stave off relegation. The winger was seen waving to the crowd and sitting alone by the goalposts after full-time in what could be interpreted as a farewell to the Yorkshire giants.
According to Fabrizio Romano, Chelsea and director of football Marina Granovskaia, had been pushing hard for Raphinha’s signature but external factors allowed Barcelona to take a lead.
“English clubs like Newcastle have explored the Raphinha idea in recent months but they know that the player’s priority is now Barcelona,” Romano wrote in his Caught Offside column. “Chelsea had been pushing for Raphinha as summer target since January, but sanctions have frozen negotiations and Barca are now leading the race.”
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