Even if the Whites are to lose two key players this summer to ‘big six’ clubs, an event well within the bounds of probability, they can still strike a blow for clubs currently outside the elite, the ones who would have been left behind had the space rocket named greed ever left the ground.
It wasn’t as noticeable last season, but when Leeds first landed back in the Premier League after 16 years in the EFL there was an obvious determination to bring with them the distinct ‘us against the world’ mentality long held by Whites supporters.
On the pitch, out of possession and in it, the same level of respect afforded to players of ‘the rest’ was given to those wearing the colours of ‘the best’ and had fans been allowed in grounds you would have said that about the atmosphere too.
Fans did come to the ground in number on one occasion during that ‘lockout’ season, to let Liverpool Football Club know how they felt about the ESL project, but inside Elland Road it was down to the club to do the rest.
What they did that night made their fans proud, proving every inch the ‘in the Premier League but not of the Premier League’ outfit Leeds can always be as long as they remain closely tied to their roots. The message to Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur on that fine spring evening was clear and two-fold - earn glory on the pitch, football is for the fans.
Leeds, then, were a torch bearer for everyone trying not to get crushed in the land of giants, just as they can be again this summer.
It would not have taken a genius to predict that the very entitlement that raised its ugly head in April 2021 would be seen in a transfer window that threatens to take talent away from Elland Road. That it took 12 days of the window to show itself was the only surprise.
Arsenal’s opening bid for Raphinha was so low that Leeds chiefs were left baffled. ‘Are you sure you meant our Raphinha and not the defender of the same name last seen in Campeonato Brasileiro Série C action for Ypiranga?’...is how they might have replied, were the intention not always to remain professionally civil with their fellow top-flight clubs, particularly ones with whom they actually enjoy quite cordial relations.
Transfer bids do not tend to come out of the blue. A prospective buyer will speak to a player’s agent, put the feelers out on the cost of personal terms and then put a call in to the player’s club. Is he for sale? What’s it going to take to get this moving?
To arrive at a situation where your opening gambit is not considered worthy of contemplation suggests a number of possibilities. Either Leeds are being wildly unrealistic in their valuation of Raphinha, a proven Premier League dangerman and starting winger for World Cup favourites Brazil, the Gunners are not serious about making him their player, or they felt they could pay what they liked to get what they wanted.
At least, however, the Gunners actually did something about their interest other than leak to the media. The noises around Barcelona, a lot of which can only have come from those connected to the Camp Nou club given the sources that broadcast the noise, have held similar notes of entitlement. We like this player so we’ve gone ahead and agreed personal terms with his agent and we’ll throw Leeds £35m when we’re ready. Say nothing about the financial mess that requires quick-fix mechanisms and levers to restructure.
Whether or not Leeds get any such sense of entitlement from Manchester City, if and when the time comes for a Kalvin Phillips bid to land on the secretary’s computer at Elland Road, they would do well - for themselves and every other club outside the big six - to take a similar tack to the one suggested by Simon Jordan this week. These are our players, who we have found and developed to Premier League and international standard, players with two years left on their contracts no less, so you’re going to have to pay through the nose. Pay up or jog on.
There is, of course, a balance to be struck because the Whites won’t want either Phillips or Raphinha to feel like their career is being held to ransom by a club that sees them only as cash cows to be milked for unreasonable amounts.
But if Leeds are to sell either man then they need to get paid because it’s not really about playing hardball, it’s about fairness and getting what you deserve. If Phillips leaves he will want Leeds to do very well out of it. Besides, the ‘big six’ and Europe’s elite clubs need to know that it takes big money, proper offers, to get what they want.
Ultimately, depressingly, it’s difficult to envisage Manchester City and possibly even Barcelona not getting their own way but if Leeds see an opportunity to strike back for the other guys and dish out another bloody nose then they should swing for the fences.