Calm between two storms for Leeds United, five targets identified, Ben White among them - Graham Smyth
This week was always going to feel like the calm between two storms for Leeds United.
The work for next season had already begun, football is a business like any other, so the future is always on the present agenda.
But having put so much into last season, in what felt like a do-or-die campaign for so many reasons, Leeds had a right to celebrate like champions, which they did, albeit not for half as long as they might have liked.
Elland Road as an operational base shut down over the weekend and the decision makers spent a day or two away, before gearing up for what will be a relentless period of preparation.
Leeds just won a marathon and now comes a sprint.
Director of football Victor Orta, who like many of the squad has to quarantine having travelled to Spain, is never not busy but his time will not be his own for the foreseeable future.
Video meetings upon video meetings, conversations upon conversations, with agents of young players who may spend 2020/21 out on loan, with his counterparts at clubs who have what Leeds want in terms of new talent, with Marcelo Bielsa as the club work to secure his services for at least another season – the energy Orta showed in the directors’ box at Derby is what is required now.
Those who work in the offices at the stadium might suggest that energy is what he brings to work with him every day, even if what is being discussed and debated is merely Fantasy Premier League team selection.
Orta no longer needs to pick players hypothetically for a top-flight team, it’s now part of his job description.
This squad needs a little more depth and the feeling at Elland Road is that solid signings, not superstars, will strengthen what has already been built. It’s not a rebuild, it’s an extension.
To that end, Leeds have identified five top targets and would like to sign them all.
Ben White is among them, which will come as no shock to anyone who watched even just one Leeds United fixture in the Championship last season.
The club he fell in love with as a loanee aren’t the only ones keen on signing him and they aren’t the richest, by a long way.
If a bidding war were to break out with Liverpool or Manchester City, Leeds would have to bow out.
Brighton say they want to keep him but as yet haven’t shown just how strong their desire is. A new and improved contract would be a good start.
If he sees his future away from the Amex, a move to Anfield or the Etihad would make him a multi-millionaire in short time and would give Brighton plenty to play with.
White has lots to consider. Would he be guaranteed to start Premier League games at Liverpool or Manchester City? He would at Leeds, where he has built relationships on and off the field and where, if Bielsa remains, he is trusted implicitly by a head coach.
Should his sincere, tactful message to Whites on Instagram this week turn into a definitive farewell, Leeds will move on. There are other central defenders to be had. And if the lion’s share of the transfer budget isn’t going to be spent on White, it can be spent elsewhere.
The money previously allocated for Jack Harrison, who will return on another season-long loan with the option-to-buy postponed for a year, will help too.
Orta has already confirmed that deal, although it’s yet to be announced by City and Leeds.
It will be a summer full of announcements – kick-off is in six weeks.
There’s a front-of-kit sponsorship deal on the table that needs signing off before the new Adidas kit can be launched, there will be news on a documentary and, as there is in any off-season, the comings and goings of youngsters.
The most anticipated update will, of course, be Bielsa’s future. Leeds know that even if they acquire their top transfer targets, next season will be extremely tough. But everyone at Elland Road will feel a bit braver about the coming storm, if he agrees to guide them into it.