The question of who truly benefited from Luciano Becchio’s transfer to Norwich City is easily answered: no-one.
The striker’s salary spiralled as a result but he paid for it with two-and-a-half lost years at Carrow Road.
Norwich released Becchio yesterday with a year of his contract to run, severing it by mutual consent. His appearances numbered 16 - of which two were league starts - and his reputation as a reliable goalscorer was never given the chance to grow. At Norwich Becchio failed to score once.
His contentious move out of Elland Road in January 2013 - hastened by the breakdown of his relationship with United’s then manager Neil Warnock - cost Norwich £2m on paper but only £200,000 in cash.
The rest represented the perceived value of Steve Morison who joined Leeds as part of the deal. Morison signed a three-and-a-half year contract at the time, becoming one of United’s highest earners at a stroke.
His first full season was spent on loan at Millwall and his goal at Charlton last month broke a two-year drought in Leeds colours. He, like Becchio, failed to thrive.
Morison has another season remaining at Elland Road and is likely to be part of the squad when Leeds start the new Championship term. Becchio, by contrast, finds himself without a club and without the negotiating power he had three years ago having passed through Norwich so quietly.
His most effective spell was a period on loan at Rotherham in September, a move cut short by a broken ankle.
Leeds have already opted against a move for one of Becchio’s old partners at United, Jermaine Beckford, and the 31-year-old will not expect an offer of his own from Elland Road.
As with Beckford, Becchio is widely respected in Leeds; an instinctive poacher and an aerial threat who supported Beckford brilliantly in League One and then led the line as an adept lone striker in the Championship.
His goals for United totalled 86 and he is 10th in the club’s list of leading club goalscorers, two behind Mick Jones. Becchio was one of Neil Redfearn’s targets in January - an obvious loanee despite doubts about his match fitness and his lack of involvement at Norwich - but Massimo Cellino did not warm to that proposal.
At the end of the transfer window, Leeds took Edgar Cani on loan from Catania instead.
Cellino’s appreciation of Becchio will be lessened further by a strange exchange at the Italian’s memorable press conference two weeks ago, during which he was drawn into a discussion and berated by a fan over the comparison between Becchio and Cani.
“Becchio’s been three years playing away (from Leeds),” Cellino said. “Tell me, how many goals did he make in the last three years?”
Rotherham might yet go back in for the striker and if Beckford chooses to stay with Preston after his release by Bolton, Becchio’s availability opens the door for Simon Grayson to restore a partnership which served him faultlessly at Leeds.
Becchio was a Spanish third-division player when United first got hold of him.
It feels long ago that a little-known Argentine was rolling up to a pre-season trial in Ireland, his boots under his arm and his future in front of him.