Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa sings slight variation of CEO Angus Kinnear's summer transfer window tune
Leeds United CEO Angus Kinnear saying he would bet against it and Marcelo Bielsa deeming it improbable will still not kill lingering hopes of further transfer business at Elland Road.
Even Bielsa himself admitted that while he is happy with his squad, there exists a need for players who are better than the ones already in place and neither he nor Kinnear could definitively rule out a new arrival because things can change very quickly as the window begins to close.
Until yesterday morning the head coach had been singing along to the very same tune struck up by Kinnear on The Square Ball podcast early last week.
The CEO made a 75-minute appearance at a time when some gentle reassurance was needed and set about the task of letting down gently those still expecting big signings in the remainder of the summer window.
It would have to be an exceptional opportunity, he told fans, to tempt Leeds into the market – one like the frankly scandalous capture of Raphinha for just £17m on deadline day last year.
That is still a huge sum of money, of course, but terrific value when the asset it secures for you is a Premier League winger about to embark on an international career with Brazil.
Leeds, Kinnear said, were actively looking for that kind of opportunity, but he left supporters in no doubt that there would not be a late-window shopping spree.
He also, almost entirely unprompted, said this: “What I can categorically say, and I’ve read it a few times, the transfer window to date and going forward hasn’t been shaped or influenced by financial limitations.
“We have fantastic backing from Andrea [Radrizzani], fantastic backing from the [San Francisco] 49ers, the club is performing very well commercially and we’re in a healthy position but sometimes being selective and discerning is the right decision and filling the squad with people who aren’t up to the level or aren’t going to fit with the current squad is really counter-productive.”
Where he had read about a perceived financial issue holding Leeds back in the transfer market, he did not say, but if he tuned into Bielsa’s press conference to preview the Everton game he would have heard about it, for this is where the Argentine sang a slight variation of the tune.
He essentially confirmed Kinnear’s suggestion that only players capable of improving the squad would meet with his approval – a perfectly reasonable and admirable stance – but went on to add that such players would come at a premium, especially in the current market.
“Signings that strengthen the team means a player has to compete with players who already have a position – that means there’s a very high cost to these,” said Bielsa.
“With regards to this situation, if players don’t arrive there’s disappointment that they don’t arrive.
“If there are signings but they’re below the level of the players we already have, there’s disappointment because they’re not up to standard.
“The intermediate situation is to find players that can overcome the players we already have and that are low priced. But to say a low price also means a high price as the low prices at the moment are prices that are very high and the good players are priced excessively.”
If no one comes in, disappointment is inevitable, as Bielsa recognised, because fans want signings. Signings are exciting and when you've been told since the window opened that your club wants a left-back, midfielder and winger, it's difficult not to get your hopes up. Leeds did want to bring in three, yet Bielsa has reiterated his satisfaction with the squad who ‘justifiably’ finished in the top half of the Premier League and the investment the club has made.
But the implication left hanging in the air after the press conference was that the club cannot or will not pay fees they do not feel give value for money. That, or Bielsa will not let them.
The idea of a head coach with such exacting standards and methods saying no thank you to deals he considers too rich for his club to stomach is certainly not beyond the imagination.
It is, however, difficult to picture a scenario where Victor Orta, a man as serious about the business of recruitment as Bielsa is about coaching, cannot identify a midfielder who could fit into this Leeds team.
There would be no shame in drawing a line in the financial sand. If any club knows how quickly that sand can swallow you up and spit you out in a much darker place, it’s Leeds United.
Perhaps money, or rather value, is shaping this transfer window after all. Refusing to pay over the odds might explain why attempts to land Lewis O’Brien from Huddersfield have strayed close to saga territory, when the asking price is in the region of £8m.
That deal is one you could not consider outside of Leeds’ monetary might.
The problem with all of this is that another midfielder remains the one thing this Leeds squad looks shy of. Banking on the return of Adam Forshaw, as good as he was in the Championship, to bolster the options, feels optimistic to the point of risk after a two-year absence.
There might be nothing at all to worry about and the squad Bielsa is content with, who suffered plenty with injuries last season, could do just as well this season.
Leeds’ summer transfer policy, in an inflated market, will then be judged as good sense and everyone will sing their praises.
If circumstance casts a harsher light, expect discord.