Matej Vydra was exactly the sort of player Leeds United should have been targeting in the transfer window. There comes a point after so many years away from the Premier League where the penny surely drops about why countless clubs achieve the promotion Leeds can’t buy.
‘Buy’ is the relevant word here. It’s not the case, as I always say, that money automatically gets you out of the Championship but this is a league where you have to speculate to accumulate. As a whole, the evidence is glaring: the clubs who go up tend to be those with the bigger budgets and the bigger players.
Vydra is a big name in Championship terms, a proven finisher at this level and the division’s reigning leading goalscorer. He’s no guarantee of promotion but as Derby County found last season, in top form he’ll drive you close. And because of that he comes at a premium.
If you want Vydra you’re going to have to pay – and pay handsomely.
So how much is too much for a deal like that? From what I’ve read, Leeds were ready to pay somewhere between £30,000 and £40,000 a week to bring him to Elland Road.
That by anyone’s standards is an exceptionally good Championship wage but finances are going haywire in English football and, as clubs drop down with increasing parachute payments, I can only see top whack in this division getting higher and higher again. In terms of a wage limit, Leeds have to draw the line somewhere and they can’t simply pay whatever Vydra asks for. It sounds like his demands have increased during negotiations and no matter his record or what he might bring, sometimes you have to walk away. Excessive salaries are what tend to drag clubs down and, if Leeds go over the top with Vydra, it’s a signing they could come to regret if it doesn’t work out.
That said, I don’t blame Vydra for setting his own value. He’s the Championship’s top scorer and, as such, he gets to name his price. I know there are thousands of Leeds supporters who would play for the club for peanuts or for nothing at all but that’s the romantic side of football talking. Professionally, Vydra has a career to think about and he needs to be hard-headed. It’s that old saying: make hay while the sun shines.
It’s not so different to Chris Wood last August. Why did he get his move to the Premier League and all the trappings that come with it? Because he’d been more prolific than anyone else in the Championship. He’d produced goals by the bundle so doors started to open and, like anyone else (I was no different), he put himself and his career first. Players do develop attachments to clubs, like I did with Leeds, and sometimes they’ll ignore a carrot dangled in front of them. But, at the same time, it is a job; a very well-paid job but a job all the same. And like most jobs, you approach it with ambition – ambition in terms of profile and achievement but also in terms of finance.
I’d give kudos to Leeds for having a go at Vydra because that, amongst other things, is exactly what the squad needs. Leeds got goals here and there from Pierre-Michel Lasogga last season and Kemar Roofe chipped in with a decent number but you never really felt that they were a team who knew how to score or had players skilled at nicking one out of nothing.
Vydra is that coveted commodity, so often in the right place at the right time in front of goal. If Leeds are going to jump from mid-table into the reckoning for promotion, at the very least they need to add some proper firepower up top. A team who hope to go up to the Premier League need to be winning half of their 46 games and you simply won’t do that without consistency up front.
As a whole, the evidence is glaring: the clubs who go up tend to be those with the bigger budgets and the bigger players.David Prutton
Assuming Vydra isn’t going to happen now, and it sounds unlikely, then Leeds must bite the bullet and find a viable alternative. I don’t for one second believe they were playing games by approaching Vydra because the summer is too short to waste time on deals you’ve got no chance of sealing but, on the basis that Vydra was seen as a realistic option, you’d now expect the club to deliver on someone comparable and someone with a similar reputation.
Being in for a Vydra or an Abel Hernandez looks good. Signing a player of that quality looks a hundred times better. Leeds will be feeling that right now because most clubs are very aware of public perception and very aware of the question marks which arise when promise in the transfer market peters out.
Salaries have to have some limits and, if Vydra’s doesn’t fit, then it’s best to move on.
But it doesn’t change the fact that a player with Vydra’s attributes is still what the doctor ordered.