Leeds United didn't earn promotion just to browse at the Premier League gift shop - Daniel Chapman

Daniel Chapman has co-edited Leeds United fanzine and podcast The Square Ball since 2011, taking it through this season’s 30th anniversary, and seven nominations for the Football Supporters’ Federation Fanzine of the Year award, winning twice. He’s the author of a new history book about the club, ‘100 Years of Leeds United, 1919-2019’, and is on Twitter as MoscowhiteTSB.

Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 6:00 am

Leeds United in the Premier League means Leeds United with money in the bank. And then out again, because where’s the fun if you can’t spend it?

Like lottery winners who swear they won’t chuck it all away, Leeds might be keeping the family’s semi-detached, but they’re getting envious glares from the neighbours about the underground garage being built for their fleet of gold-plated Bentleys.

Leeds can use new defender Robin Koch to claim the money hasn’t changed them. He’s a sensible purchase at half the price Brighton were asking for Ben White.

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New Leeds United forward Rodrigo. (LUFC)

Spending the Ben White money and more on Rodrigo Moreno from Valencia, though, is Leeds sitting uninvited in Brighton’s boardroom, lighting a cigar with a fifty pound note and refusing to leave.

Andrea Radrizzani did predict Leeds would break ye olde Rio Ferdinand transfer record and, after the euphoria of winning the Championship in July, this close season must be the equivalent of a title run-in for football executives.

Victor Orta was being chased down the street by reporters in Valencia and, as they crowded round him with microphones and cameras, he must have felt like the Britney Spears of sporting directors, living in public what until now he’s only mimed to the mirror.

Ringing in his ears were Marcelo Bielsa’s words when Rodrigo was mentioned - but is it possible? Leeds keep pushing those questions about possibilities away from what might be, towards what might not, starting with Marcelo Bielsa himself.

Leeds are being helped this summer by nerveless opportunism, seizing on players from clubs in financial difficulties: Rodrigo from Valencia, Joe Gelhardt from Wigan, and I’m going to say Sam Greenwood just to wind Arsenal fans up.

Orta is a football romantic who watched United’s 2000/01 Champions League campaign from the Spanish side, when we played Barcelona, Real Madrid, Deportivo La Coruna and Valencia, so won’t be immune to the particular symbolism of Rodrigo’s transfer.

Defeat in Valencia in the semi-final was as good as it got; Leeds failed to qualify for the Champions League again, and the bravado of signing Ferdinand was soon replaced by the desperation of signing Robbie Fowler as the banks closed in.

Commentators eventually got bored of counting the days since the semi-final as Leeds slid too far down the leagues and stayed there too long for it to seem relevant anymore.

But roles have reversed now: failing to qualify for the Champions League, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, has left Valencia needing to sell to survive.

Welcome to Leeds, Rodrigo.

There was never any particular bitterness towards Valencia specifically for denying the world the sight of David Batty taking on Bayern Munich in a Champions League final, held in Dom Matteo’s San Siro.

Alan Smith’s red card for a petulant late foul exorcised the frustration of the night, and most anger was aimed at UEFA for banning Lee Bowyer on the eve of the match.

Besides, Valencia have since trained up and gift wrapped Pablo Hernandez for us, a better apology than we could ever have asked for.

But the Champions League hangover has somehow never truly lifted, is even inherited by fans too young to remember.

As plausible rumours circulate that Rodrigo Number One and Koch might be joined by Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese and Joško Gvardiol from Dinamo Zagreb, for €35m and €20m, the rattling chains of Peter Ridsdale can be heard haunting the city’s aquariums.

The scouting profiles are exciting, the YouTube compilations are thumping. But which one, we wonder, will be Seth Johnson, which will be Fowler, the players and the millions that take things too far?

Worrying about spending too much is an honourable Yorkshire trait, but it doesn’t half make life feel grim at times.

It’s like going to a theme park but refusing to buy tickets for the best rides, dourly circling on the tea-cups until it’s a relief to go home. Leeds didn’t spend 16 years dreaming of the Premier League just to look at the gift shop.

You can’t take it with you and, while nobody wants another Leeds spending spree to end up with the club as dead as it has looked for most of the millennium so far, nobody should feel guilty for how alive they feel, imagining Rodrigo De Paul fizzing crosses for Rodrigo Moreno, as Lionel Messi hovers for a knockdown.

It’s football, isn’t it? We’re here to dream, after all.