Key to Victor Orta's capture of Raphinha, Robin Koch, Diego Llorente and Rodrigo revealed as Leeds United defy daunting statistic

Leeds United knew they were up against it as they entered the Premier League for the first time in 16 years, so the pressure was on Victor Orta to get his recruitment right.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 4:54 pm
Updated Monday, 1st March 2021, 4:58 pm
STAR MAN - Raphinha has quickly become a fan favourite and a dangerman for Leeds United since his deadline day arrival from Ligue 1 club Rennes. Pic: Getty

Chief executive Angus Kinnear has revealed one of the keys to Orta's summer transfer market activity and praised the quartet of new signings brought to Elland Road by the Spaniard, for Marcelo Bielsa's first team.

Leeds wanted to add a handful of top quality additions who could help Bielsa's side make the step up to the top flight. When Brighton insisted Ben White was not an option, Leeds turned to German international Robin Koch and Spanish national team defender Diego Llorente to boost their centre-half options. Llorente's international team-mate Rodrigo became the Whites' record signing and late on deadline day Leeds finalised their £100m-plus summer business with the capture of Rennes winger Raphinha.

Kinnear says all four had to meet a certain criteria in Orta's mind, before they could be considered genuine options.

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"One of the key filters that Victor and his team apply to our recruitment process is a projection on the speed of adaptation to the rigours and style of the Premier League," said the CEO.

"This was in place even when we were in the Championship - Patrick Bamford, Mateusz Klich and Jack Harrison being prominent examples - but was particularly vital in our first season back. We knew we were facing a 50 per cent statistical probability of immediate relegation, and so the margin for error in our summer trading was smaller than it will ever be."

Injuries have disrupted the debut campaigns of three of the four new boys. Llorente suffered a series of niggling injuries and didn't play his first full 90 minutes until the visit of Southampton last week, while Robin Koch had to have knee surgery on a problem he first picked up on the opening day of the season at Liverpool. He played through the pain barrier until a collision at Chelsea made an operation necessary. He's due back in training this week and Bielsa expects him to feature again this season, ahead of the European Championships this summer. Rodrigo missed a couple of games through Covid-19 and then injured his groin on January 31 at Leicester. He's yet to return from that latest setback.

Raphinha has missed just one game since his first team debut and quickly become a star in Bielsa's side, but each of the new signings can already boast impressive performances and glimpses of the quality that first attracted Orta.

Kinnear, as tongue-in-cheek as ever in his matchday programme notes, says they've all settled in well bar the wing wizard taking all the headlines for his goals, assists and dribbles.

"To a man, our new recruits have adapted effortlessly to their new environment...with the possible exception of Raphinha but, once he finally gets going, I still believe we might have a half-decent player on our hands," he quipped.

Despite defeat to Villa at the weekend, Leeds United sit 11th in the Premier League table, 12 points clear of the drop zone with a dozen games remaining in the campaign.