All quiet after Junior Firpo excitement but Leeds United still busy in summer transfer market with two targets to secure

Leeds United buy players from Barcelona now.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 4:45 am
LOOKING UP - Leeds United and Victor Orta have recruited with a policy of looking up at the top half of the Premier League table, ever since promotion from the Championship. Pic: Getty

If ever you needed seven words to sum up just how far the club has come since the doldrums of League One or even since the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa in 2018, those would suffice.

It might be the perfect time to buy from the Spanish giants, given their financial situation, but that fact did little to lessen the excitement as Junior Firpo was unveiled on Tuesday. In fact, the timing of the deal will be another tick in Victor Orta’s personal win column, should Firpo provide the answer Bielsa is looking for at left-back.

Just as he was prepared and in position to strike when Rennes made a late-window decision to sell Raphinha for what can now, less than a year later, be described as a snip, Orta was ready and equipped to take advantage of Barcelona’s need to sell.

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It helped that Firpo himself wanted out after two years and not enough football, but Leeds’ bid still had to stand out, amongst offers from Champions League clubs like AC Milan.

The thoroughness of Orta’s presentation style has won over several high-profile players now and what appears to shine through is not only how badly Leeds want the player, but how that player will fit in at Leeds. It helps to have Bielsa’s seal of approval too, of course.

This signing falls in line with Leeds’ policy of only ever looking up, since promotion. Unlike Sheffield United who, as Chris Wilder admitted, had to recruit with one eye on the worst-case scenario after escaping the Championship, Leeds have had both eyes on the top half of the Premier League. Players like Rodrigo, Raphinha, Robin Koch, Diego Llorente and Firpo are not the players you go and get in order to be well prepared to bounce back after a potential relegation.

That level of recruitment is necessary too, when all the talk around Elland Road and Thorp Arch is of expectations of a harder and more challenging second season.

And now that the excitement over Firpo is dying down, Orta is back at work selling the dream to a central midfielder, another player who meets with Bielsa’s approval.

Leeds, as they have been ever since the window opened, are tight lipped on their top target. They managed, somehow, to keep their interest in Firpo under the radar until they were suitably advanced in negotiations to be confident of getting their man, and they’ll hope to do the same for the next first-team signing.

Although Orta has spoken with the player in question, things are not at such an advanced stage as to be considered imminent and things may go quiet for a period.

As The YEP has reported previously, the signing of a winger may go even later into the window.

Nothing can draw a howl of ‘who are we signing?’ from football fans like a week or two without a new signing but casting a glance around the Premier League shows that the majority of this summer’s business is yet to be concluded.

Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur are yet to bring first-team players in, suggesting that the window will get a lot more interesting once the Euros are out of the way.

In the meantime, Leeds continue to work on ins and outs at Under-23s level and below. No news does not mean no recruitment; at least one youngster has signed but not been announced – Leeds take the view with the younger element that profile is not always helpful in the initial stages – and the club may wait until the end of the window to confirm all their teenage additions.

The latter stages of the window could yet see movement the other way too. Robbie Gotts, Niall Huggins, Bryce Hosannah, Jordan Stevens and Bobby Kamwa are all players you could see going out on loan, at the very least. Leif Davis, who was previously a target for Bournemouth, too perhaps, although that would leave Bielsa decidedly light at left-back.

At first-team level, Leeds are not pushing for departures although, if they do add another winger, it would further endanger what has already become limited game time for Helder Costa, and Kiko Casilla, who was absent when the majority of the squad returned for pre-season last Thursday, must decide if he’s happy to spend the last two years of his contract playing second fiddle to Illan Meslier.

If Casilla was to favour a move back to Spain, Leeds would require a replacement.

As ever, when the window is open, situations can arise, circumstances can change in a day or two and work finds its way to Orta’s desk.

It might be quiet, but Leeds are busy.