Leeds United: Why Becchio is a risk worth taking

Luciano Becchio celebrates scoring during his time at Leeds. Is he worth a punt for Steve Evans? (Varleys Picture Agency)

Luciano Becchio celebrates scoring during his time at Leeds. Is he worth a punt for Steve Evans? (Varleys Picture Agency)

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If Georghe Hagi was considered the Maradona of the Carpathians, Luciano Becchio could easily lay claim to being the Batistuta of Beeston.

His recent presence in Leeds has drummed up another wave of hysteria, with some fans demanding his return to the club and others taking a less positive perspective on the idea of a homecoming.

Becchio was photographed wearing a Leeds United training shirt while training to recuperate from a recent injury on Thursday, the latest moment in the bizarre drama.

The Argentine striker has been without a club since leaving Club Atletico Belgrano last month, and his agent recently confirmed that Becchio wants to sign for the Whites in January, despite suggestions on Steve Evans’ part that he will only meet the player for a coffee.

Becchio’s fitness has been called into question, and that seems to be the primary issue for fans who do not want to see him return. He had to depart the Piratas only months after signing for them as he was not fit enough and was doing his rehabilitation in Europe.

Prior to that, Becchio spent nearly an entire season on the sidelines, having joined Rotherham United on loan before suffering a setback.

He’s also played little football since leaving Elland Road, his move to Norwich not working out in a footballing capacity in the slightest. Becchio only appeared 13 times in the league for the Canaries.

On the other hand, it seemed as though Becchio was unfortunate while at Norwich. The club bought three new strikers in the summer after he signed, Johan Elmander, Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel, making his route to the first team very difficult.

Chris Hughton also repeatedly refused to sanction a loan deal - Brian McDermott confirmed his interest in bringing him in temporarily as early as September 2013.

Although it seems like a lifetime ago that Becchio was playing in the white shirt, it was actually only two and a half years ago that Neil Warnock decided he was worth swapping with Steve Morison.

It was only weeks after Becchio entered the club’s history books, becoming one of Leeds’ top ten league goalscorers of all time. His 76th strike put him ahead of Arthur Hynes.

The timing of his departure could not have been much worse, and judging by Neil Warnock’s resultant autobiography, The Gaffer, it was because of a falling out with the manager more than anything else.

Warnock was gone soon enough, but Leeds fans never really got over Becchio’s departure.

It makes the topic of his return interesting, because, to a large extent, it is emotionally motivated. That does not necessarily mean that it would be a bad decision.

Elland Road has felt more like a funeral parlour than a football stadium in recent months, and there is a sense that there is little to excite fans on any given Saturday.

That is why, given the right terms, bringing Becchio back could make more sense than it seems on a purely pragmatic basis. It would be a signing to get fans talking, and also one that could tempt people who have stopped attending into going back again.

Imagine a half-season ticket campaign centred around Becchio. For those who grew up with the striker bundling in efforts all over the pitch, it would be hard to not see it working.

Leeds also need options up front desperately, given Evans’ preference for a 4-4-2 and the fact that the club’s only strikers who can reasonably be considered to be proven in the division - Chris Wood and Mirco Antenucci - start every week.

Becchio would provide an alternative, and unlike many others who have come through the doors at Thorp Arch over the years, the Whites know he can score goals. Even if he can only manage 15 minutes a week to start, it’s 15 minutes of predatory instinct in front of the net Becchio was never particularly pacey, just good at being in the right place at the right time and hitting the ball home.

It would be a risk to bring him back, and there are fears that an unfit Becchio could shatter

the memories he left behind, but given the likelihood that he would not demand much economically, it is less risky than it would have been at any point since his departure.

Sometimes, there are risks worth taking, and to be honest, this is one of them.

Garry Monk

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