Last season the West Yorkshire side ended their 16-year hiatus from the Premier League. Having returned to England’s topflight, Leeds are looking to be a permanent fixture rather than becoming a “yo-yo club”. Despite two excellent years under Bielsa, for them to remain a Premier League club, their summer transfer window will have to go well but how should they go about it?
Firstly, get Bielsa to sign the contract. For Premier League survival, this will be crucial. Reports suggest the Argentina is close to signing on the dotted line for Leeds and people around the club are confident but with someone as eccentric as Bielsa, you never know. Leeds fans are getting nervous and after the impact Marcelo has had on the club and city, it is important he signs.
However, if for some reason he doesn’t, who should take over? Mauricio Pochettino would be an ambitious appointment but after being out of work for since November 2019 and his admiration for Bielsa, it wouldn’t be the most ridiculous shout.
Another option would to be going for someone fairly similar to Bielsa. Jorge Sampaoli has been likened to Bielsa but Marcelo Gallardo would be a smarter appointment. Gallardo doesn’t play as expansive football and would offer more longevity.
Due to the step up in quality Leeds would face, they might want to opt for a safer pair of hands. This could be Marcelino who has a great track record in Spain and can build an excellent defence with whatever he’s got. Other options could be Sam Allardyce, Nigel Pearson or even Sean Dyche if he does leave Burnley.
Leeds’ squad does need some work. At the time of writing, Leeds are reportedly close to Rodrigo from Valencia for a fee of £30 million. Not only will this eclipse the current transfer record fee (£18 million for Rio Ferdinand) but the Spaniard will turn 30 in March and will earn £100,000 a week. It will be a huge financial commitment for Leeds United and for a striker who has scored 35 in 141 appearances for Valencia.
Instead of signing an aging player such as Rodrigo or other risks like Ryan Kent, Leeds United should be smarter in the transfer window. With £80 million to spend, Leeds can take calculated risks on players who will have resale value and won’t eat up huge wages.
For £50 million, the Whites can complete a double swoop for Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins from Brentford. Benrahma will provide more creativity and goalscoring from wide areas. Whilst Watkins who can play numerous positions, will provide more clinical finishing and also do all the off the ball stuff Bamford can.
Another signing from the Championship is Emi Buendia. The Norwich star can leave for £15-£20 million and is coming off an excellent Premier League season. Having scored once and provided seven assists in 2462 league minutes, the Argentine would be able to give Pablo Hernández a rest. Leeds desperately need a replacement for the 35-year-old. Buendia, like Pablo, is a very good creator and set piece taker. £20 million for Emi Buendia is a steal.
In the last few days, Brighton have rejected a third bid from Leeds for Ben White. They rejected a £25 million bid for White as they don’t want to sell to a direct rival. As much as Leeds love Ben, they will have to turn their attention to a different target for a central defender. Robin Koch is reportedly close to joining however, other targets are around.
ASSE have financial issues as they budgeted to finish 8th but they finished down in 17th and are reportedly looking to move on £100,000 a week in wages and sell some stars. This means Wesley Fofana can leave for £5 million. Fofana has been better than Saliba who is off to Arsenal for £27 million, Fofana has the makings to fit into Bielsa’s system and become a star.
Malang Sarr is a free transfer after leaving Nice. Chelsea are reportedly close to signing him, but they want to loan him out and he isn’t fond on that. Leeds can swoop in and steal Sarr from Lampard and due to Sarr’s ability to play centrally, as a left back or even fill in for Phillips, would mean he’d be gifted minutes.
Ibrahim Sangaré has been relegated with Toulouse and can reportedly leave for £15 million. Although this would put Leeds over budget, it is worth getting Sangaré as he would be an excellent replacement for the 30-year-old Klich and can even offer cover for Phillips. It would be worth putting in an offer of a loan with an obligation to buy set at £15-20 million.
Another loan option would be Juan Foyth from Tottenham. He can play at centre back and right back and is very young. Leeds can put in an option to buy next summer set at around £10 million so it is a very small risk, at worst he will be a squad player and if he shines, Leeds can pick him up for a cut price.
Kiko Casilla is a must to shift out. His huge wages aren’t good for the club, especially as Meslier has taken the number 1 off him. This along with his reputation after being found guilty of racially abusing Jonathan Leko means a move back to Spain would be best for him. If Leeds play him, it would be PR and unfair on Meslier.
Jay-Roy Grot and Ouasim Bouy should also be sold. Neither moves have worked out and its best to sell rather than another loan move for each. These three together could fetch £5 million and free up a lot of room on the wage bill.
Leeds have a lot of young players at Championship level who deserve more game time than they can be offered in the Premier League.
Ian Poveda has impressed since joining from Man City. If Leeds sign another winger, Poveda will be fifth choice and a loan move to Huddersfield or Barnsley would benefit all parties and give him a chance to show his ability on a more frequent basis.
Jamie Shackleton and Mateusz Bogusz have both showed their abilities but won’t get much game time if Sangaré or another midfielder joins. It is rumoured Leeds want Cook (£13 million) and Ronaldo Vieira (£10 million) back at Elland Road. Shackleton and Bogusz could replace Bellingham at Birmingham or impress at a top Championship club like Swansea. They both deserve a lot of minutes.
A lot of other U23 players such as Leif Davis, Jordan Stevens, Elia Caprile, Kamil Miazek, Oliver Casey and Joe Gelhardt have been linked with loan moved to the Championship or top League One sides. With Carlos Corberan taking over at Huddersfield, a lot of rumours suggest he will loan in a lot of these players and make the Terries Leeds’ feeder club.
If Leeds sign a Ben White replacement and at least another centre back, Pascal Strujik could look for a loan move away. Brentford and Swansea make the most sense for Strujik due to their set ups and his ability. However, if Leeds only sign one centre back, Strujik would be a back up and undoubtedly impress at Elland Road.
All of this would leave Leeds United in budget and strengthen the squad significantly whilst making it younger. It would set them up well for the future and next summer would be able to focus on full backs like Rico Henry and Rasmus Kristensen.
However, if Leeds go ahead with uninspiring signings such as Rodrigo and Kent, they could be in trouble. These signings would not only hurt their present but also their future.