TOMMASO BIANCHI, who is leaving Leeds United to join Ascoli on a permanent deal, was one of 15 players signed by the club during owner Massimo Cellino’s first transfer window.
Leeds ramped up their business in the summer of 2014 in an effort to prepare for a transfer embargo the following January and Cellino looked abroad for 11 of those signings, including Bianchi’s arrival from Italian club Sassuolo.
Cellino has since admitted that he underestimated the strength of the Championship and the mixed success of that influx proves his point. So who were the 15? And where are they now?
Stuart Taylor (goalkeeper, free transfer from Reading)
The former Arsenal trainee was the first recruit of the Cellino era. Well into his 30s, he came in as understudy to Marco Silvestri and made only three appearances after Silvestri was part of the infamous withdrawal of six injured players before United’s trip to Charlton in April 2015. Leeds released him soon after and Taylor is still without a club.
Marco Silvestri (goalkeeper, undisclosed fee from Chievo)
Silvestri has been Leeds’ first choice keeper for the past two years and he has another two seasons on his contract. United head coach Garry Monk is looking to replace him this summer, casting doubt over Silvestri’s future, but the Italian was back at Thorp Arch for pre-season training on Monday.
Tommaso Bianchi (midfielder, undisclosed fee from Sassuolo)
Arrived at Leeds during a flurry of announcements in July 2014. Played 26 times in his first season but looked increasingly uncomfortable in the Championship, even before two knee injuries forced him to undergo surgery. Spent the second half of last season at Ascoli and is now joining the Serie B side permanently on a three-year contract for an undisclosed fee.
Apps: 26 Goals: 0
Souleymane Doukara (striker, undisclosed fee from Catania)
Now into the last 12 months of his contract at Elland Road. He had a short purple patch at the start of his spell with Leeds and another midway through last season but he was sidelined towards the end of the 2015-16 campaign by an eight-game ban for biting.
Apps: 51 Goals: 10
Gaetano Berardi (right-back, undisclosed fee from Sampdoria)
Started badly with two red cards in his first four games but, to quote Neil Redfearn, was the most suited of all the foreign imports to the style and intensity of the Championship. Firmly established as Leeds’ preferred right-back and a popular figure among United’s support.
Apps: 53 Goals: 0
Billy Sharp (striker, £600,000 from Southampton)
A transfer which then head coach David Hockaday was extremely keen to complete and a player who Leeds had been linked with for years. Sharp scored the winner on his home debut against Middlesbrough but he became peripheral as United fell back on a 4-5-1 formation to see off the threat of relegation. The club sold him to Sheffield United last summer, midway through their pre-season tour of Austria and Norway.
Apps: 35 Goals: 5
Liam Cooper (centre-back £600,000 from Chesterfield)
Leeds had previously failed with an offer for Cooper but they went back to him after a sorry 2-0 defeat at Millwall on the first day of the 2014-15 term. The 23-year-old gone onto become the club’s vice captain, make 72 appearances and win a Scotland call-up. He’s now into the last year of his three-year contract.
Apps: 72 Goals: 2
Mirco Antenucci (striker, undisclosed fee from Ternana)
Spent two seasons at Elland Road before United released him in May. He was Leeds’ top scorer in his first term and finished last season with nine goals but his time in England was difficult in periods, not least because of an appearance-related clause in his contract which saw his first-team place threatened in April 2015. He signed for Serie B club Spal yesterday.
Apps: 80 Goals: 19
Giuseppe Bellusci (centre-back, undisclosed fee from Catania)
Another of the clutch of summer signings who is still with Leeds, though he missed the start of pre-season this week due to family problems. He is close to joining Empoli on loan, however, so an exit this summer seems highly likely. Amid his low and controversial moments, Bellusci’s free-kick at Bournemouth in 2014 stands out as a highlight.
Apps: 61 Goals: 2
Nicky Ajose (striker, £150,000 from Peterborough United)
Another Hockaday-inspired signing and one which came to absolutely nothing. Ajose was ignored after making three league appearances, including one as a substitute, and he was sent on loan to Crewe for much of the 2014-15 campaign. A severance deal last summer allowed him to join Swindon full time and he scored 25 times at the Country Ground, earning a place on the shortlist for the League One player-of-the-year award. Charlton Athletic signed him for a reported £800,000 last week.
Apps: 4 Goals: 0
Casper Sloth (midfielder, £600,000 from Aarhus)
An expensive signing by United’s standards but one who has never made his face fit. Sloth is still on the payroll at Elland Road and has been training as usual in the past few days but two years on from his arrival from Denmark, he has 14 appearances to his name. He did not play once last season.
Apps: 14 Goals: 0
Zan Benedicic (winger, season-long loan from AC Milan)
As a youngster from the San Siro, the Slovenian winger appeared to have some pedigree but he was struggling to merit inclusion in Leeds’ match-day squads long before a serious knee problem - the bane of his career to date - ended his campaign in November 2014. He spent the rest of his loan recovering in Italy and duly rejoined his parent club. He is one of a number of former Whites who now play for Ascoli.
Apps: 2 Goals: 0
Dario Del Fabro (centre-back, season-long loan from Cagliari)
Came from Cellino’s old club and United’s owner thought a lot of the young centre-back but Del Fabro made no meaningful impression. Aside from an unexpected and isolated FA Cup outing at Sunderland, His only distinction was to be among the group of six players who controversially withdrew through injury from Leeds’ 2-1 defeat at Charlton in April 2014. Capped at several youth levels by Italy, he joined Ascoli from Cagliari on loan last season with a view to a permanent move and played there alongside Bianchi and Benedicic.
Apps: 1 Goals: 0
Brian Montenegro (season-long loan from Nacional)
An unheralded but talented striker, formerly of West Ham, who came from Paraguay but like Del Fabro and others had precious little chance to make his presence felt. One FA Cup start and five substitute appearances in the league were all Montenegro was given. Did he have more to offer? The 23-year-old went back to Nacional in the summer of 2015 and scored 18 goals in 22 games. He looks set to finalise a move to Argentine champions Lanus in the days ahead.
Apps: 6 Goals: 0
Adryan (midfielder, season-long loan from Flamengo)
The ‘marquee signing’ and the transfer that Cellino was most desperate to tie down. Famously described as a “dreamboat” by the BBC’s South American football expert Tim Vickery - and turned out to be exactly that. The odd trick and flash aside, the Brazilian’s flair rarely showed itself and he was all but absent from the second half of the 2014-15 season. He has just finished another loan with Nantes in France where he played in 26 league games and scored three goals. The Football Association is continuing to investigate where his move from Flamengo to Leeds broke third-party ownership rules.
Apps: 13 Goals: 0