Raphinha: The making of Xavi's own difference-maker?

The Brazilian's solitary goal gives Barcelona the necessary cushion for the upcoming El Clasico next week. Is this the sign of the emergence of Xavi's new game-changer?

Raphinha is something of a controversial figure among the Barcelona faithful. He is an undoubtedly talented player but also a player whose ceiling is arguably significantly lower than that of, say, Ousmane Dembele. One is a player while the other is the player, in spite of his inconsistent nature. But if we’ve learned one thing in the past few weeks, it’s that in the absence of the man for Barcelona, Raphinha is someone who could turn into that guy himself.

With the aforementioned Dembele sidelined by another injury and the Catalans’ creative juices all but drained up without the talisman that is Pedri, someone needed to step up in attack. And it wasn’t Robert Lewandowski. It wasn’t Ferran Torres. It wasn’t Ansu Fati. And it wasn’t Gavi, despite his valiant ‘planking’ efforts, heading a very much grounded ball just to solidify his commitment and devotion to Xavi’s cause. It was Raphinha.