Leeds United chief Victor Orta lining up deals as he talks Raphinha and makes journalist quip

The whereabouts of Victor Orta during transfer windows has become a point of fascination for Leeds United fans and a source of amusement for the director of football.

By Graham Smyth
Saturday, 2nd July 2022, 1:07 pm

Last week the Spaniard was photographed, not by the press but a fan, in an airport lounge awaiting a flight to Belgium. It has become a routine occurence and another quirk of the summer for the Whites, akin to new players being spotted and caught on camera as they arrive at Elland Road to sign or new kits being leaked.

The past week has been a busy, dizzying one for Orta, and it has not been uncommon for him to visit two countries in a single day in pursuit of the players Leeds will sign once the expected Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha money comes in.

Orta has lined up three of his top targets and back-up options for the positions in which the squad will most need strengthening once Manchester City capture Phillips and the Raphinha saga is brought to a close. Phillips had his medical at the Etihad on Friday and is expected to be announced as a Manchester City player on Monday, with Darko Gyabi's move in the opposite direction also due to be completed after the teenager also passed a medical at Leeds before the weekend. As for Raphinha, the auction is hotting up. Chelsea have the highest bid in, thanks to their circa £60m offer, and can pay up front. Barcelona are in the race - Deco has made sure of that - but their ability to not only match Chelsea but hand over the cash straight away, remains questionable. Agreeing personal terms with the player months ago was all well and good but it's Leeds they most urgently need to shake hands with.

As it stands, unless Raphinha decides to settle for a move to Stamford Bridge or his preferred club show Leeds the money, the Brazilian could well find himself on a flight to Australia next weekend, which would certainly be interesting if not entirely in the best interests of all parties.

As Orta told COPE's Great Match show, Phillips is sold but Raphinha is not.

The outgoing business is necessary this summer according to Orta, because although the Premier League's huge global popularity means vast amounts of broadcast revenue pours in and allows clubs like Leeds to spend, the scale of their spending since promotion needs to be balanced out.

"This year we have to sell because we’ve spent various years spending money," he said, in an interview translated by Joe Brennan."We are going to sell Kalvin and let’s see who else we sell, that’s clear, but we have been capable to sell to keep growing. The first year we were able to come up and spend nearly 90 million straight away - the risk coming up [but] knowing you have parachute payments coming if you go down."

FOR SALE - Leeds United will sell Raphinha this summer and Chelsea are the current highest bidder and can pay up front but Barcelona remain in the race. Pic: Getty

Selling Raphinha will allow Orta to pull the trigger on three of the several deals he has cooking thanks to his recent trans-Europe jaunts. Leeds need a centre forward, a defensive midfielder and a winger to replace a player who has proven himself to be special over the course of two seasons at Elland Road.

"He’s good," said Orta of the Brazilian.

"He has good legs, physically very good, works a lot off the ball. He is an exciting player, and then going forward, he can take on players, get away from players, he’s difficult to play against. He’s one of the guys who runs the most in the league. He’s a special player, he’s got similarities to Neymar. He plays well on the wing but runs back much more than Neymar, he defends much more than Neymar."

Orta, who felt Raphinha's first season was better than his second with Leeds but credited the player's effort levels in the relegation battle, joked that presenter Juanma Castaño should get on the phone to Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano if he wanted more detailed information on the exact transfer situation.

And although he was happy to reveal that he was speaking from Italy - where the YEP understands he was meeting one of the candidates for Leeds' midfield vacancy - he kept his exact location to himself.

"I’m in Italy," he said.

"They take pictures of me in the airports. Seriously! It’s funny. I’m not going to tell you what city I am in - if I say it to you then they’ll say 'what’s he there for?'"

What he's there for is to try and ensure that the sales of Phillips and Raphinha actually improve Leeds, by allowing them to bring in three senior players to add to the three already secured in this transfer window.

Some of the options Orta has identified this summer, particularly RB Salzburg midfielder Mohamed Camara and Brugge striker Charles De Ketelaere, would go a long way towards convincing supporters that despite the loss of two stars, this window was one of significant strengthening. Both of those deals are complicated by competition from elsewhere - these are options who have very good options before them. De Ketelaere has the appearance of a genuine coup, if Leeds can beat AC Milan and Leicester City to his signature. Camara's expense could be a factor and it may be that Leeds instead turn to RB Leipzig man Tyler Adams, who has the appearance of a solid, sensible signing.

Whoever he ends up with, Orta knows the Premier League will still always be a scrap for Leeds.

"Look, the Premier League surprised me in one thing and it’s that all games are difficult for one reason: every team has one really good player, or two or three," he told COPE.

"This makes every game really interesting. It’s not easy to win against anyone here. I mean, we got a lot of goals scored against us last season at times, a little bit for our style etc etc but it is difficult to win becasuse there are good players on every team. I read a stat that at the Euro 2020, the Premier League and Championship had 152 players, the next one was Germany with 80-something. In the end the best players come and the product sells itself. Then of course it’s well sold."

Orta is out there right now, somewhere, selling Leeds to who he believes are good players. His mounting air miles will count for something if whoever he brings in can make life more comfortable for Leeds in their third Premier League season since promotion and if the top flight remains his and the Whites' location come next summer.