Barcelona forward Raphinha has sent out a strong message to manager Xavi regarding his role in the team after returning to form in recent weeks with the Catalan giants.
The Brazil international, who has been used on both flanks this season, has told Catalunya Radio that he much prefers playing on the right side of the attack rather than the left, as reported by Diario AS.
“I haven’t played on the left for a long, long time. Almost five years ago. I adapted to playing on the right and I like playing there better,” he said. “The problem is that when you arrive at a new club, it is important to play in your place to adapt and play well. But I spoke with the coach and if he puts me on the left, I want to continue helping, even if he puts me as a goalkeeper.”
Raphinha has played on the left this season but has struggled to make an impact. Yet he’s impressed on the opposite side since taking over from injured France international Ousmane Dembele.
The summer signing has 3 goals and 3 assists in his last 10 outings in all competitions for Barcelona, including a winner against Valencia last time out in La Liga.
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Raphinha’s Struggles at Barcelona
Raphinha has readily admitted that he found it difficult to adapt to life at Barcelona initially after making the move from the Premier League. The forward has also said he’s “missing something” but has vowed to rediscover his best form.
The Brazil international’s frustrations have also been on show. Raphinha was taken off against Manchester United in the Europa League and reacted angrily by hitting a chair in the dugout. However, he was quick to apologize to Xavi and his teammates.
Xavi has told Raphinha to “be more selfish” this season and does seem to be finally being rewarded for his patience. Raphinha has proven effective in recent weeks, particularly after Robert Lewandowski joined Dembele on the injured list.
Raphinha’s goals and assists have helped Xavi’s side extend their lead at the top of the table to nine points over defending champions Real Madrid.
When Will Dembele Return?
Raphinha looks set to continue in Xavi’s starting XI while Dembele is out injured but may face a battle for minutes once again when the France international returns from a thigh problem.
However, Dembele is still some way off a return to action, as reported by ESPN. The forward will miss Barcelona’s next two matches against Athletic Club and Real Madrid in La Liga.
Domestic action will then pause for an international break, meaning Dembele is not due to make his long-awaited comeback until Saturday, April 1 against La Liga strugglers Elche.
Yet if Raphinha can impress against Athletic and Real Madrid, two games that could prove key to Barcelona’s title hopes, then Dembele may have to wait even longer to get back out on the pitch for Xavi’s side.
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