Marcelo Bielsa labelled Raphinha the “best player” at Leeds United “in all senses”, and hailed the news that new contracts are looming for the Brazilian and one more important player.
Amid a campaign of uncertainty, Brazilian Raphinha has continued to shine brightest where those around him have faltered. The 25-year-old remains Leeds’ most potent attacking threat, though his sparkling 18 months at Elland Road has begun to make the transfer rumour mill spin.
Raphinha was the subject of speculation linking him to Bayern Munich over Christmas. He has also regularly been linked with Liverpool and PSG. But thankfully for Leeds fans, the Mirror reported last week that Raphinha will not be sold this month.
Instead, plans are afoot over a contract extension that would further safeguard Leeds’ position in the market.
Now, speaking in his Friday press conference (via LeedsLive), Bielsa welcomed that news with open arms. In doing so, the Argentine also explained why Raphinha is the “best player” at the club in every aspect.
“I think it’s a great decision,” said Bielsa of Leeds’ plan to offer a contract extension. “Raphinha is the best player in the team in all the senses – physically he’s the best, technically he’s at the level of the best and the interpretation he has of the game is very good, very wise.
“[He is] within the group of such a powerful nation of Brazil. He shines in the Premier League and he has the attention of all the big clubs in the world.
“All of those things is something you guys know just as much as me. Nothing that I’m saying is new. As a result the decision of the club can only be valued.”
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Bielsa pays huge tribute to Adam Forshaw
Another important player who could soon pen fresh terms is Adam Forshaw. The central midfielder has surpassed all expectation this season after overcoming a near-two-year injury hell with a persistent hip issue.
Forshaw has shouldered the responsibility in the engine room since Kalvin Phillips suffered a hamstring injury. And like Raphinha, the 30-year-old too is in line for a new deal.
Bielsa paid a heartfelt tribute to Forshaw for the tireless work he has put in to return to fitness. Furthermore, he claimed Leeds would be pulling off a shrewd piece of business if the midfielder commits his future to the club.
Bielsa said: “Very difficult for me to refer myself to Forshaw, in this moment where he’s given such a valuable response. Because I didn’t know Forshaw was going to be the player he was once before.
“I don’t want it to seem like the process Forshaw went through wasn’t with my support. He did it by himself with all the support the club gave him which was a big support but I didn’t participate in his success, I only accompanied him.
“And when the moment came I gave the responses he deserved to play, but in the important part of those two years I wasn’t there with him so I don’t want to link myself too much to him because I don’t want to impose on his success.
“The club will make a very convenient decision if they extend Forshaw. Every week he’s showing he’s a player of a very good level.”
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Liverpool exodus on the cards as four talents tipped to leave Anfield before deadline day
A Liverpool exodus is on the cards as four players have been tipped to leave Anfield before next week’s Deadline Day.
The Reds are set for a knock on effect from their signing of Porto and Colombia winger Luis Diaz. His imminent £54m arrival, coupled with the upcoming returns of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, will leave Jurgen Klopp with a few too many attacking options.
That means their stance on duo Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino has now changed.
Klopp was said to be reluctant to let Origi go this month. And it was reported that two offers for Minamino had been knocked back too.
However, as per The Athletic, both are now up for sale for the rest of January.
Liverpool will be looking to recoup some of the funds they are set to splash on Diaz. They could also do this with the sale of defender Nat Phillips, valued at £15m.
He’s been the target of attention from both Newcastle and Watford. Both have had offers turned down but could return.
And the man behind the report, journalist James Pearce, has revealed another exit could occur too.
Speaking on The Red Agenda Podcast, he said: “Neco Williams, I wouldn’t be massively surprised if there was some interest him before next week’s January deadline.”
Liverpool defender surplus to requirements
Pearce continued: “Liverpool were open to selling him in the summer, there was talk of a £10m asking price, and there’s an understanding at Liverpool about Neco’s position – there’s a World Cup at the end of the year and he needs to be playing regular football.
“He’s good enough to be doing that, but at Liverpool he has the misfortune of being behind Trent Alexander-Arnold.
“Also, Liverpool look at it and see Conor Bradley and the way he’s performed.
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“He’s younger than Neco as well, and he’s more happy to bide his time and learn his trade, so I think that’s why Liverpool are open to offers.
“I was told potentially a loan for the rest of this season with an option or an obligation for the summer for Neco Williams, so yeah, I think we probably will see him move on, if not this month then in the summer.”
Klopp plans face threat
Meanwhile, Real Madrid are reportedly plotting a midfield revamp involving a stellar star targeted by Liverpool.
The Reds have been tipped to make a major addition to their midfield ranks next summer. James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara are all the wrong side of 30.
Ajax’s Ryan Gravenberch is one name who has been linked. The 19-year-old Ajax superstar-in-waiting is already a regular in the Netherlands national team.
A Spanish report detailed Liverpool and Real Madrid’s interest in December, and claimed the Reds were willing to stump up £42m in the summer.
Now, ESPN have shed new light on the situation, namechecking Gravenberch as a Real target once again.
READ MORE: New suitors ready to present Liverpool with Origi offer as Newcastle consequence
Newcastle desperately offer Arsenal unlikely helping hand as talks commence for striker
Newcastle United have reportedly offered Arsenal an unlikely helping hand as they look to round off their January transfer business.
The Magpies have endured a frustrating window thus far, but they do now have two more signings in the pipeline. Lyon midfielder Bruno Guimaraes is undergoing a medical today, while Brighton’s Dan Burn looks set to move too.
And according to The Telegraph, one final addition is wanted by the financial superpower after that pair.
That’s because Eddie Howe desires further firepower to help get his side out of the Premier League relegation battle.
With options on that front limited, they’ve swopped for someone they know they can get – Eddie Nketiah.
The 22-year-old is into the final six months of his contract with the Gunners. He’d therefore attracted interest from Crystal Palace and Aston Villa.
After neither had made a move for the soon-to-be free agent, his club had become resigned to losing him for nothing at the end of the season.
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However, Newcastle look set to relieve them of that fate and give them some cash for Nketiah now.
It’s claimed the transfer has been quietly worked on for ‘some time’. And now it looks close to being completed.
Nketiah is expected to travel north at the weekend, with no fixtures in the way, to finalise the move.
That will be a welcome boost because although Guimaraes is set to join too, the Toon have had to admit defeat in the chase for Jesse Lingard.
They were said to be hopeful that Manchester United would lower their £16.5 loan asking price for the attacker. But as that hasn’t happened, they walked away from talks.
Newcastle may have second option
Meanwhile, another report has claimed West Ham will step up their pursuit of Duje Caleta-Car before Monday’s transfer deadline and could therefore allow Issa Diop to join Newcastle.
Both the Hammers and the Magpies have been searching for defensive recruits throughout the January window. Newcastle have already added full-back Kieran Trippier, but they are desperately seeking a centre-back.
West Ham have looked stable at the back for large parts this season. However, a long-term injury to Angelo Ogbonna coupled with recent defeats to Leeds United and Manchester United has raised concern.
As such, both sides are chasing a new central defender before the cut-off on Monday evening. And that could cause a transfer train…
READ MORE: West Ham to gift Newcastle best transfer chance yet as Moyes goes after thrilling £15m raid