Eddie Gray has told the Leeds United show that he believes Raphinha has bought into Marcelo Bielsa’s style of play since swapping French club Rennes for the Whites, allowing him to improve under the guidance of the beloved Argentine manager – while also discussing Patrick Bamford’s chances of breaking into Gareth Southgate’s England side.
Raphinha and Bamford starred on Monday night, as the Whites earned a third Premier League win in four – with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace. Bamford notched his 12th of the season after Raphinha saw a shot parried by Vicente Guaita – following Jack Harrison netting his sixth of the season with a strike that flew into the net, after a deflection.
It has seen Bamford go to 12 goals and six assists in his 22 Premier League appearances for Leeds – defying pre-season expectations that he would struggle to score in the top flight. Fast forward just over half of the season and there are claims that Bamford could gain a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad, especially with Newcastle United forward Callum Wilson suffering a long-term hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, Raphinha is beginning to gain plaudits outside of the Leeds United hemisphere – with Barcelona and Liverpool being linked with a move for the ex-Rennes and Sporting Lisbon ace. Commenting on the Brazilian, Gray thinks he has improved under Bielsa due to his willingness to put the defensive work in – while also backing Bamford’s England claims.
“When I look at Raphinha when he first came in, he’s a completely different player now,” Gray said. “His work ethic is tremendous. There was a situation in the second half and it broke down and he was the first player to get a challenge in – it was 20 yards inside our half. He made up 40 yards. I don’t think you would have seen that at the start, but he has bought into Marcelo Bielsa’s way of playing. Obviously he has tremendous talent, but he has stepped up too.”
Continuing on Bamford’s England chances: “If you’re a striker at this stage of this season with a dozen goals, you’ve got to be in the running. He is up there with the top marksmen in the league, he’s playing well. You’d expect him to be mentioned in the same breath as a lot of other strikers. There is no reason why he shouldn’t be mentioned in the England reckoning. Southgate is at most of the Leeds games, and he will have seen a vast improvement in Bamford.”
Bought for £17million, Raphinha has exceeded expectation and while he has decent stats with four goals and four assists in his 17 games. But the skillful winger has shown – as Gray says – defensive work that has seen fans fall in love with him. He has been sensational for the Whites, but if an offer in the region of three times the figure Leeds paid – the Yorkshire club’s hierarchy might be tempted into sanctioning his exit.
In terms of Bamford’s chances of shining in an England shirt, with three fixtures upcoming in March, he needs to maintain his form – which has seen him score two goals and lay on three assists in his last three Premier League matches. That form would see him have a great chances of being picked ahead of the likes of Danny Ings, Ollie Watkins and Tammy Abraham. Time will tell.