Nobody can accuse Leeds United of not going full tilt on their return to the Premier League after a 16-year absence, both on the pitch and in the transfer market. The board have backed maverick manager Marcelo Bielsa with an eclectic mix of new signings.
Besides bringing last season’s loanees Helder Costa and Illan Meslier in on permanent deals and extending Manchester City-owned Jack Harrison’s stay at Elland Road, some future prospects for the developmental squad have also joined. There are fresh faces for the first team too.
Former Bolton Wanderers loan capture Rodrigo only managed one goal during his first taste of English football a decade ago. Having since established himself at Valencia, the Brazil-born Spain forward has at least matched his tally for the Trotters at Leeds already.
Reinforcing defence was also a priority of Bielsa’s, although the expansive and open style of his team does not exactly lend itself automatically to clean sheets. Nonetheless, two full international centre backs in Robin Koch and Diego Llorente have arrived from Germany and Spain respectively.
The latter was part of an overachieving Real Sociedad side that finished sixth in La Liga last term and reached the Copa del Rey final. Koch, meanwhile, helped Freiburg progress from battling Bundesliga relegation to just missing out on European football for this season during his three years with them.
These are defenders on the up, then, and – provided they continue to improve in the crucible of the Premier League – they should serve Bielsa well. It appears as though Leeds have learned from Championship heartache and struggles to get back up into the big time.
Bielsa also has new wide options to support Rodrigo or Patrick Bamford who has the central striking berth for now. The wonderfully named Crysencio Summerville has been prolific for the Netherlands Under-19s, and the winger of Surinamese descent rejected a new deal at Feyenoord in favour of moving to Elland Road.
Brazilian wide prospect Raphinha arrived on transfer deadline day from French Ligue 1 outfit Rennes too. The 23-year-old has already played for Sporting Lisbon, one of the biggest clubs in Portugal, earlier in his career. If these options on the flanks can provide service, then they add value to the side.
Maintaining the high-intensity style demanded by Bielsa in what is a shortened season means the depth of the squad is key. Leeds have eight points from their first four games. Keep that average up, and there is nothing to worry about.
One or two transfers fell by the wayside, however. Bayern Munich’s midfielder Mickael Cuisance returned to his native France on loan at Marseille after a move to Elland Road broke down. Bielsa also missed out on creative compatriot midfielder Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese.
Despite that, the feeling is that Leeds may have done some smart business. Fans are firmly behind Bielsa after he did what managers with infinitely more experience of English football coming into the Elland Road hot seat failed to do. The adventure continues.
Marching On Together