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Raphinha appearance in Leeds United’s Ajax friendly set to hold great personal significance

When Raphinha signed for Leeds United last October, the 24-year-old must have been a maelstrom of emotion.

While Leeds itself hardly boasts an illustrious or prestigious history of Brazilian players – quite the opposite – it did signify he had reached the land of milk and honey: the Premier League.

England’s top flight is one of the most lucrative divisions in the world, for both players and clubs.

Raphinha will undoubtedly have earned one of, if not the most gainful contract of his short career.

Leeds meanwhile were bestowed with riches beyond their wildest dreams; beneficiaries of bumper television contracts and a chance at marketing themselves to a global audience.

Twelve months on from promotion, the team has begun to take on a global feel, with Brazil-born duo Rodrigo and Raphinha, German and Spanish internationals Robin Koch and Diego Llorente, as well as new recruit Junior Firpo – born in the Dominican Republic.

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The side face Dutch champions AFC Ajax at the Johan Cruijff Arena this evening, in what will be a European, and South American, showcase.

Ajax boast an equally diverse squad, and a rich history much like Leeds United.

And while Leeds boast a right-winger from Brazil, Ajax can show off two: Antony and David Neres.

The former will not partake in this evening’s pre-season game, as he is currently with Brazil’s U23 side at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Nevertheless, David Neres is expected to play some part, a fellow Brazilian international.

In fact, of the trio only Raphinha is yet to be recognised with a cap for his country – at any level.

Raphinha #10 of Leeds United during the pre-game warmup

“There’s no professional player who doesn’t think about representing the Seleção [Brazilian national team]. It’s one of my dreams, of course, but I have no control if that’s going to happen or not,” the Leeds winger said in an interview with FourFourTwo back in April.

“What I can do is work very hard at Leeds, and that’s what I’ve been doing throughout my career. If I manage to put in good performances and help my teammates, I’ll be closer to getting that opportunity.

“If it did eventually happen, I’d be over the moon,” he finished.

Almost certainly the best thing 24-year-old Raphinha could do for his international career, is steal the show in a game where he will go up against a direct competitor for his place in Brazil manager Tite’s next squad.

Neres is a seven-cap full international, while Antony has been a mainstay for the Olympic team this summer, but neither were selected for Brazil at Copa America, emphasising the level of competition for places.

Nonetheless, if Raphinha can demonstrate on the same pitch, he is more dynamic, more courageous than Tite’s current alternatives, on the back of his 2020/21 campaign, then surely he will have played himself into Seleção contention ahead of the September international break.

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