Tag Archives: Max Gradel

Max Gradel Signals Desire for Leeds United Return – by Rob Atkinson

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Mad Max Gradel wants to come home

Rule One of Social Media is that high profile sports stars say or do nothing without a reason – they don’t need to seek attention in their goldfish bowl existence; quite the contrary, if anything. So when, in the aftermath of the recent change of Head Coach at Leeds, former United attacking sensation Maxi Gradel comes out with a loved-up tweet about the Yorkshire giants, including the obligatory MOT hashtag, you can be tolerably sure that he’s not just passing the time of day. Max can see that Leeds United are about to buckle down and get serious about restoring elite status and, this blog believes, he wants to be a part of it.

Maxi Tweets

Max – still loves Leeds

Whether and when that might happen is a matter of conjecture, but it would be highly surprising if Gradel were not to be linked to an Elland Road return again in the summer. Given the current league position of the club, with a new coach feeling his way into the job and a brutal run of fixtures ahead, almost all of which are under the spotlight of live TV coverage, it seems more than likely that United will still be a Championship outfit next season. Should that be the case, then they will be looking for proven performers to displace some of their misfiring fringe players, and wide attack is one area that could stand some enhancement.

I believe that Leeds will be the likely destination for Ivory Coast international Gradel’s next career move; he has plenty left to offer, and still enjoys cult hero status among United fans. Moreover, it seems clear that he would relish a return to Elland Road – otherwise, why the pointed social media comments?

All in all, it seems that the prospect of Max back in the white yellow and blue of Leeds United next season could well morph into reality before too long, and most United fans will extend a warm welcome home to the talented forward. I’d give this one a good 8.5 out of 10 on the likeliness scale and, while some will say it’s merely wishful thinking, there are sound reasons on all sides to believe that a Gradel return to Leeds is going to happen.

If Max – currently on loan at Toulouse from Premier League AFC Bournemouthdoes come back, it’d be a massive step towards helping us hit the ground running for a promotion campaign next time around. He’d be that much of a shot in the arm for a club that has underachieved for too long now. Fingers crossed that Gradel’s social media output next season will reflect his contribution towards United’s return to the top.

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‘Mad’ Max Gradel Points Bamba to Home Comforts at Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

Striking success - Gradel scores his second for Leeds against QPR

Striking success – Gradel scores his second for Leeds against QPR

By common consent, one vital ingredient missing from the Leeds United recipe over recent years has been a class act on the wing. Somebody exciting, with the gift of pace and the trickery to go past people as if they were not there. Somebody with a goal or two in him; someone to terrify the opposition. Such a man was and is Mad Maxi Gradel, a raw talent when he was foolishly discarded by Leicester City, but a talent that blossomed – and how – at Elland Road.

Now, even after a few years away from Leeds, Mad Max is demonstrating that he still has deep feelings for the club where he strutted his stuff briefly, but to such effect. The Ivorian international, it’s been revealed, texted his countryman Sol Bamba – another former Leicester man – and recommended the Leeds move to the huge defender. “He text me two days ago and said he’d heard about my move and he was happy,” said Bamba. “He said I will love it here. He said the fans will be good with me if I do the business. He told me all the good things about the club and that gives me even more positive things about the club. He said only good things. I’m happy to be here and I cannot wait to get started.”

Could such enthusiasm for our beloved Leeds hold out any hope that we may yet see Gradel himself back in a United shirt? Maxi’s return to LS11 has been mooted many a time and oft, but for various reasons it’s never quite happened up to press. That’s surely not to say that the player wouldn’t be up for it, though. The feeling during Maxi’s too-brief time at Leeds was that he formed a strong attachment to the club and to the fans. This was despite his occasional red-mist moments – notably of course the one that so nearly upset United’s promotion clincher at home to Bristol Rovers back in 2010. Leeds fans have always been partial to the presence of a certifiable nutter in the team – but it’s probable that tolerance would have snapped had Gradel’s insane reaction and sending-off cost his team dear that day. Happily, as we know, it all came right – and Max survived to demonstrate that he was a force in the Championship during Leeds’ first season back, when we briefly threatened to charge through the second tier and into the top flight at the first time of asking.

Sadly, the executive management of the club was deeply flawed at that time, and a succession of managers found themselves hamstrung by the dodgy policies of the bearded menace in the boardroom. Gradel was one casualty of a bizarre transfer ethos which seemed to identify any player with real potential to take the club forward as a priority sale item. We lost a lot of good players, and the best we have done since, really, is tread water in the Championship – nowhere near good enough for a club like Leeds.

Now, current crises notwithstanding, there may be a glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel – certainly as far as player recruitment goes. The club has managed to secure the services of some genuinely exciting players, without (so far) revisiting the past – although there have always been calls for the likes of Beckford, Snoddy and even Howson to return and fulfil their destiny at Elland Road. The Cellino policy (when he has been allowed to get on with his running of the club) has been to seek out good prospects at the right price, supplementing the signings with an injection of talent from the youth and development squads. Against this background, the re-signing of Gradel would buck the trend somewhat – then again, trends are there to be bucked.

The difference with Gradel is that you feel he needs to be at a club where he’s loved and believed in; he seemed a player who would give of his best most reliably with a vociferous crowd behind him to light the blue touch paper. For this reason above all, the feeling at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything is that – if there is just one past player Leeds should be looking at re-engaging, then Mad Max Gradel is that man. His ability and pace out wide – something still notably absent in this group – could open up new dimensions for the likes of Sharp, Antenucci, even Doukara and – as we fondly remember – he had a hell of a finish on him as and when he got a sight of the target. His goals against Notts Forest in a pulsating victory at Elland Road (the one where TV commentators tried to excuse a two-footed challenge by a Florist player to claim he shouldn’t have been sent off) will stay long in the memory. The feeling was that Max loved Leeds and that Leeds loved Max – why shouldn’t such a reciprocal passion be re-ignited?

Allowing for whatever may yet happen in the remainder of this window, a move for Gradel could kick-start a survival push this season. It’s a season that few really expected to bring concrete rewards – although you had hopes. But even as part of a rescue mission for a squad that could challenge more confidently next time around, the addition of Max would be an exciting and potentially productive development. As far as this blog is concerned, he would be the top choice should Leeds after all look to bring back just one old favourite.

Maxi for Leeds – yes please. Let’s have a bit of Gradel madness for the rest of this turbulent season.

Chester Friendly to Blood New Leeds Recruits? – by Rob Atkinson

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Friendly fixture to give game time to signings?

It’s a slightly odd and faintly unusual thing to do – arrange a friendly fixture right in the middle of the hurly-burly of a busy league campaign and just as the FA Cup starts up for another year (for the big lads of the top two leagues).  The match at Chester’s Swansway Chester Stadium will take place next Tuesday (k.o. 7pm), right in the middle of what would otherwise have been a welcome blank week for the club’s “leg-weary” players.  What could be the motivation for such a match?

Well, it could of course be simply a reserves friendly, an addition to the development squad’s calendar, perhaps top give an opportunity to try out some trialists.  Such things do happen, though they’re normally behind closed doors affairs at Thorp Arch.  Interestingly though, Brian McDermott has been emphatic in the press just lately that he wants to get any incoming transfer business done early in the window, and that he’s confident of board support, despite the fact we’ve heard nothing officially about Football League approval of the mooted Haigh-led takeover.  Perhaps we need a #Pen4Shaun campaign?  Other gossip has seen it opined that Luciano Becchio would be a poor signing as he’d be nowhere near match-fit, having spent his time at Norwich warming the bench.  This Chester game has a whiff of intrigue about it, and I suspect that it’s not unconnected with the possibility of some inward transfer movement over the next couple of days or so.

What the composition of the Leeds team will be next Tuesday night is a matter for speculation.  With Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough waiting for us next weekend, and then Leicester, Brighton and Ipswich coming up in the rest of January, together with possibly a couple more FA Cup games, it’s unlikely that a friendly would call on the services of many of our regulars this season – depending of course on who actually plays at Rochdale in the Cup this weekend.  It’s really all quite intriguing.

I don’t expect to see Thierry Henry in a Leeds shirt at Chester – but there may well be a couple of names in there making their bow for Leeds in an effort to make an early impression.  Billy Sharp?  Luciano Becchio?  Maxi Gradel even?  We’ll have to wait and see – but given the timing of this game, the biggest surprise would be if there were no surprise inclusion at all.

How Much Can Leeds Afford? Becchio and Gradel in January Would Seal Promotion – by Rob Atkinson

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Gradel & Becchio – dynamic duo

We’ve heard lately about United manager Brian McDermott having “funds” to assist with any player recruitment he might wish to undertake during the forthcoming January transfer window.  It’s a pretty vague word, funds.  Slightly more specific is the reported “seven-figure sum” invested in the past week or so by Managing Director and prospective Tory MP David Haigh.  Again, though, that doesn’t tell us too much, though it is encouraging.  We mustn’t get too giddy though.  We’re no longer living in the days when a paltry million pounds was quite a lot of money.  The one buzz-phrase surprisingly missing from this little shower of clichés is “transfer war chest” – perhaps because what Brian has is not so much of a war chest as a slightly cracked piggy bank.  But don’t be surprised if the phrase “war chest” is wheeled out at some point before the new year.

However much we have, or however little – and it’s important to acknowledge the wisdom of not being too specific as to figures because of the inflationary consequences for asking prices – the real burning questions would be: who do we go for? Who, after all, do we need?  The team is showing clear signs of increased unity and cohesion under Brian’s benign stewardship, and there must be a certain amount of wariness as to the possibility of rocking the boat too hard.  But you can never have enough good players, and for a club with an alarming track record over recent years of getting rid of our best, that maxim has a particular resonance.

Some of those players chucked overboard recently (yes ok, some may possibly have jumped ship) would be welcomed back by many.  But, of those, who would really fit in and add something significant to the existing squad?  I can think of three – and perhaps two of those might be feasible targets in January if – big if – we were to go down the route of welcoming back old boys.  My three would be Snodgrass, Becchio and Gradel. Sadly, Snods is probably beyond us for the moment, although that could and most likely would change in the event of Leeds and Norwich swapping leagues in May (Please, God. Pretty please.)  But the other two could just possibly be realistic targets – depending on exactly how much money there is in that piggy bank.

Believe me, I know how that assertion will be received by some.  I’ll probably get comments about “never go back”, “unrealistic targets”, “wage structure”, “why would he?” and all the rest.  Do save your breath, or your pixels and fonts – I’m aware of all the pitfalls.  But maybe if Leeds are taking the view that – hang on, we might actually have a shot at promotion here – there might be a more ambitious attitude to investment to bring about that promotion.  I believe that the acquisitions of Becchio and Gradel – with Becchio by far the more likely, but let’s dream a little – would pretty much guarantee a play-off place and could even open the door to the top two.  Both would add qualities that we currently just don’t possess.

McCormack has been prolific lately, but he’s a different type of striker to Luciano Becchio – and if Blackstock returns to Forest after his loan spell, we’re still going to need someone as an option for Rossco to play off.  And Becchio is a proven scorer at this level. As for Gradel – just look at those clips of him running at defenders in the white shirt. How bloody sexy is that??  He could do a hell of a lot of damage in this league, and he has a goal in him as well.  French football and French crowds are pretty insipid by English standards – could Mad Max be tempted home if we had the right kind of attractively juicy carrot to dangle before him?  It’s not impossible – though, again, some will say it is.  I wish them joy of their gloomy pessimism and inability to dream.

This is very much a what-if scenario.  I doubt that, in the real world, we’ll be making the level of investment required for such an audacious double swoop.  Becchio on loan, maybe.  The lad is plainly deeply unhappy at Norwich, and would probably walk back to Elland Road given the chance.  Gradel would be the cherry on the icing on the cake.  It’s undeniable that either or both “could do a job”.  Can anybody seriously dispute that?