Leeds United Bygones: Luciano Becchio’s shortlived career was still a big hit with Whites fans

Luciano Becchio celebrates a goal on debut against Yeovil Town in 2008. PIC: James Hardisty
Luciano Becchio celebrates a goal on debut against Yeovil Town in 2008. PIC: James Hardisty
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Leeds United’s continued flirtation with the signing of a new striker would do well to finish as favourably as it did on this day in 2008, when a little-known Argentine called Luciano Becchio completed his move to the Whites.

Having been recommended to the club by former Newcastle defender Marcelino Elena, Becchio joined on trial and instantly impressed in pre-season matches against Shelbourne and Barnet, so much so that manager Gary McAllister offered him a three-year deal to sign from the now dissolved Spanish outfit Merida.

Luciano Becchio is mobbed by team-mates after scoring his goal on debut against Yeovil Town. PIC: James Hardisty

Luciano Becchio is mobbed by team-mates after scoring his goal on debut against Yeovil Town. PIC: James Hardisty

“We’d had reports on Luciano, seen DVDs, and had a good look at him in training,” McAllister said.

“We were very keen to get him in and he’ll be a real threat for us. I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen of him in the games and although he’s lacking in match fitness, he realises that and we still have 10 days before the season starts. He’s working hard.”

“He’s got a good instinct, he’ll be dangerous.”

Dangerous he certainly was. It took him just 25 seconds to bag his first Leeds goal on his first start for the club in a 1-1 draw at Yeovil, and he scored in his first appearance at Elland Road, a 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace. This instant impact made its mark, rarely has a foreign player developed the status of fan favourite quite so quickly.

Former Leeds United player Luke Murphy.

Former Leeds United player Luke Murphy.

Becchio’s name is one that still whistles through the terraces at Leeds from time to time, and for good reason, his goal record and tireless work rate a prominent feature in Leeds’ success at the time, particularly in the League One promotion campaign of 2009-10.

The Argentine bagged 17 goals that year and went some way to writing his name in United folklore. Indeed, he is the club’s tenth highest league goalscorer of all-time, with 76 goals in his 190 appearances across five seasons.

All of this is hardly surprising considering his football apprenticeship at Boca Juniors, Mallorca and particularly Barcelona, where he spent a season training alongside the likes of Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi and representing the club’s second string side on ten occasions.

Becchio’s tough nature and ability to play through injuries earned him the nickname of Lazarus by his second Leeds manager Simon Grayson, and whilst it was this fierce tenacity that so endeared him to the Leeds faithful, those injuries began to take their toll.

Hamstring struggles began to curtail his progress with the club, and although his scoring record remained impressive, he spent long periods on the sidelines including a five-month spell that precluded him from the start of the 2011-12 season.

Whilst the injuries came and went, Becchio was never far from the top of the goalscoring charts, which began to attract interest from around the leagues. Bids were rejected for the forward, but a strong first half to the 2012-13 season during which he had claimed 19 goals in 31 appearances across all competitions proved too attractive for Norwich City, who tabled their interest during the winter transfer window.

With Becchio’s contract dwindling and the club unable to agree terms with the player’s agent, the Argentine signed for the East Anglians on transfer deadline day in January 2013, in a direct swap deal for Steve Morison.

Becchio’s years at Leeds proved to be the highlight of a career that continued to be blighted by injury and lack of form.

He failed to score a competitive goal for Norwich and short-lived spells at Rotherham Town and Argentine Primera Division side Belgrano, as well as unsuccessful trials at Bristol City and Coventry City, were indicative of a player with his best years behind him.

Whilst his departure from Elland Road left a sour taste for many Leeds fans, the forward remains fondly remembered and was repeatedly linked with a move back to the club for the next few years.

If a new front man is to join Thomas Christiansen’s squad before the end of the transfer window, he would do well to make as much of an impact as Luciano Becchio.

2015

Luke Murphy was given the number eight shirt for the forthcoming season. The centre-midfielder who has made over a hundred apperances for Leeds United and scored seven goals has been loaned out to Burton Albion for the 2017/18 seaon.

2014

Tom Lees made the switch to Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday. The Central defender who came through the youth ranks at Elland Road made 123 appearances for the Whites scoring three goals in six years.

2011

Billy Paynter scored the winning goal for Leeds United in a 3-2 win over Newcastle United in a pre-season friendly at Elland Road. Patrick Kisnorbo (now Melbourne City women’s manager) and Lloyd Sam grabbed the other goals on a glorious warm afternoon.

1989

Versatile defender/midfielder David Rennie moved to Bristol City for £175,000. He spent three year at Leeds and scored in the 1987 FA Cup semi-final 3-2 defeat to Coventry City at Hillsborough. He contributed five goals in 101 matches.

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