Since we were relegated from the Premier League all them years ago we have tried what seems like every transfer policy out there. In fact we haven’t, we haven’t even scratched the surface and we have stepped it up massively this summer under Andrea Radrizzani. From the likes of Ken Bates to Massimo Cellino we have had so many players pass through Elland Road, freeloaders and failures as well as success stories, and this year we should be excited to see the outcome of Andrea Radrizzani’s on-field foundations.
Only since Massimo Cellino took over have things began to move up in terms of the playing staff at Leeds United, and even he got it very wrong at the start. If he had produced a first summer like his last then who knows where we would have been, but he didn’t and his past eventually got on top of him, some fans had turned, he was constantly involved in off-field dramas that meant bans and fines and it was a case of Radrizzani taking advantage of that. He took over the club and questions were asked. First Garry Monk. The head-coach made it seem like he wanted to stay and when he realised Radrizzani was going to give him the deal he left, probably thinking the Italian owner was going to get rid, something he misjudged.
The big arrival through the door on the recruitment side of things was Spanish director of football Victor Orta. Leeds have had and failed to make work a director of football just a few years ago. He goes by the name of Nicola Salerno and he was the man behind many of the foreign imports, mainly Italian based that arrived in Cellino’s early days. Mirco Antenucci, Guiseppe Bellusci, Tomasso Bianchi, Marco Silvestri, Souleymane Doukara, Dario del Fabro, Zan Benicidic, Gaetano Berardi. Names of players who came into the club with a firm Italian based policy in the transfer market. Did it work? In parts. Gaetano Berardi has been a sensation since arriving and Souely Doukara may still have a part to play. The problem was that these were bargain buys in the main, gambles, and penny pinching ones at that. Most have departed and it’s fair to say it didn’t push us towards our targets, but progress had been made in other ways.
The squad that Massimo Cellino inherited was a regime that had been part-run by Ken Bates and taken over by Gulf Finance House, both who had no money in very different ways. Bates did actually have money but didn’t spend it on Leeds, GFH didn’t have money but spent it anyway, leaving us in a hole we were lucky to get out of, again. The squad was a mixture of Warnock’s “experience and players he trusted”, McDermott’s hit and mainly miss business and what was left of Simon Grayson’s promotion squad which was duck taped together with brilliant signings and whatever he could pick up for free. The likes of Luke Murphy and Scott Wootton had been bought for what was big money at the time, Ross McCormack was leaving after a bargain £250k signing and Snodgrass, Gradel, Howson, Becchio and more had left because we simply didn’t have any ambition to keep them at the club.
Leeds had been scraping the barrel at times and a classic example was when Ken Bates refused to spend decent money on a centre back or two, players that would have probably got us in the play-offs at least. Then Warnock came in and money was promised, it barely came, Luke Varney, Jason Pearce, Michael Brown, paddy Kenny all came, and it became clear that “Championship experience” wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. El Hadji Diouf even came in against all of Warnock’s views he had to sign a player he once called a sewer rat because he had no money. In League One and before it was a case of free transfers with the very rare fee spent on players from lesser clubs. None of these worked. Grayson made his work for a time but when we were expected to kick on and progress we went backwards under him because he was feeding off scraps from Ken Bates.
We have also tried the loan system for many years, and in the main it has been a poor way to go with some exceptions. One of those was last season when we had some top loan players, but even then it was balanced out by some complete shockers. Pontus Jansson, Kyle Bartley and even Hadi Sacko impressed, the first two particularly. We also had Matt Grimes, Mo Barrow and Alfonso Pedraza, the latter doing ok, the others aren’t even worth mentioning. It was a way for Cellino not to spend money and to patch up a squad he had began to spent money on. Chris Wood, Rob Green, Luke Ayling, Kemar Roofe, Liam Bridcutt, Eunan O’Kane had all come in for the basis of a strong side, some coming in for significant chunks of money. The next progression is now commencing in the form of Andrea Radrizzani.
So far, no loans. So far he has spent around £15 million on the squad and it doesn’t seem like he is finished for the summer. The players are coming from abroad in the main, but that isn’t a bad thing. Some crave this “championship experience” that is often discussed and 100% you need that, but as we’ve seen before a team full of it doesn’t guarantee you anything at all. We have that experience. Look through the squad. The majority are Championship hardened and we still came up just short last season. What Radrizzani and Orta are doing is adding foreign imports with quality, even though they haven’t played at this level before. Thursday 13th was a huge day for the club, Samu Saiz and Ezgjan Elioski signing for a combined £7 million, players courted by La Liga and Serie A clubs. A Bundesliga goalkeeper, Polish international midfielder and a raw striker who to be honest, we know nothing about. Anita, a player who does have experience at this level, but key to my point, he has experience of winning this league.
Young players are arriving from abroad, two from Spain have joined Magdar Gomes and the bubbling talent we already have in the academy. Young players such as Lewie Coyle and Bailey Peacock-Farrell have been given new deals and have been loaned out to gain experience and our brightest young player Ronaldo Vieira, fresh of the back of winning the Toulon Tournament with England signed a new four-year-deal with the club, committing his future to the football club. Our top talents such as Chris Wood are still at the club, and the backroom staff is growing. No transfer policy guarantees you success at a football club but some you should be excited about and look forward to seeing developing, and after years of punishment on that front we now have that, after progress in the last few years we are now entering a new era where we are beginning to look like the hunters, and not the hunted.