As speculation mounts over just who the man could be that will revive the flagging fortunes of Leeds United in front of goal, one name simply refuses to go away. Luciano Becchio of blessed memory, our very own Argentinian hit-man, a hard-working and committed striker with a Barça “B” notch on his CV – yet currently a flop at Norwich City, the deal that took him there having gone sour for both clubs.
Leeds emerged from that transaction with Steve Morison and some money. Then Morison went to purgatory in the shape of Millwall and has barely emerged since, despite a return to Elland Road – although he has lately shown some commitment and promise in a lone striker role. The Becchio money has of course long since disappeared on United’s running costs or Ross McContract’s wages – and poor Luca has spent the interim period sliding ungracefully down the pecking order of Norwich’s lengthening roster of strikers. In his rare league appearances in the not-so-famous canary yellow, he has scored the grand total of zero goals. The form that prompted the Carrow Road lot to go after him was much more prolific as his Leeds career came to an end, but he did not take that form with him to East Anglia.
It is common knowledge that Luciano would be open to a return to Elland Road and, indeed, that he wasn’t all that keen on leaving in the first place. Dark rumours are being whispered abroad that he was forced out; that his availability was hyped-up by the men then in charge, and that poor Luca was but a pawn in the high-stakes finance game being played out in the wake of the GFH takeover. Perhaps it’s true. So would Becchio be welcomed back to LS11?
Opinions, as ever, are divided. Some would crawl over broken glass all the way to the wilds of Norfolk and then give the lad a piggy-back ride all the way up to Thorp Arch and pay for the privilege. Others regard anyone who leaves as several grades down from Judas Iscariot, and would rather kiss a Man U badge than see such a traitor back in the fold. The truth is out there somewhere, and more than likely it’s in between those two extremes. There is always a worry about a returning hero; the late, great John Charles failed to relive the magic when he returned, and there have been other second-time flops since. Isn’t it, perhaps, better to go for a new man, with no ex-Leeds baggage, one who will arrive with a clean slate and an eagerness to win new friends? You’d have thought so, and Signor Cellino prefers to shop elsewhere – but all of his prospects are turning up their noses at Leeds and heading off elsewhere.
Becchio’s failure to hack it in the Premier League during Norwich’s doomed survival fight (some would say that’s a harsh call given his relative lack of opportunities) will not have surprised many. His game was always about drive and endeavour more than silky skills and fancy flicks or turns. He would work so hard on his best days, he would go in where angels fear to tread, he would stick his head in where many might shrink from risking a boot. On his off-days, by contrast, he could be awfully anonymous – subtract effort and commitment from his game and there was not, it seemed, a hell of a lot left. And yet every now and then he’d produce a sublime finish, as depicted in the image above, that belonged at a much higher level. His habit of picking on Middlesbrough endeared him to many, and the fact that the Smoggies coveted him as well as McCormack would be reason enough for many to get him back on the payroll.
As things stand, all we really have is a very persistent rumour that the Whites are looking for additional firepower, and soon at that, with the window slamming shut Monday night. Whoever we might get, I hope they’d come with a winger included, so that the whole thing might stand a better chance of working – although the club seem to be banking on Mowatt and Byram to do the wide boy stuff.
If Becchio does appear again in a Leeds United shirt over the next few days, he’ll be doing it because he’s wanted by the boss – Redders has come out and said as much, but was abruptly contradicted by the since-departed il Presidente. On the basis that the pro in the equation wants the lad, I’d cautiously welcome him back, and wish him all the very best as he seeks to resume a United career he should probably never have interrupted.