Leeds United face up to long-standing charge as CEO hints at future transfer direction

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Leeds United's future transfer business will be informed by the mistakes made in chasing potential stars rather than more obvious signings, according to Angus Kinnear.

One of the biggest accusations levelled at the Whites in the last couple of years is that the obvious thing was not the done thing at Elland Road.

Taking the road less travelled by had its upsides - most notably when Victor Orta put Leeds in position to pounce when Raphinha suddenly became available for less than £20m. Hindsight will tell you loud and clear that he was Premier League ready and one of the best bargains of the club's recent history but at the time no one else but Leeds took the punt and brought him to England.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Players currently forming important parts of Daniel Farke's plans, like Illan Meslier, Pascal Struijk, Willy Gnonto and Crysencio Summerville, were all purchased for sums under £5m. However bumpy the road has been for them as individuals or the squad as a whole, no one could argue their worth as investments. As it stands club CEO Angus Kinnear believes the quartet to be £20m players, at least, and this summer Gnonto alone was the subject of bids far in excess of that.

You could of course say that the risk involved in signing those players was minimal, because the financial outlay was minimal, but when Meslier had to unexpectedly step into a Championship promotion charge and then hold down the number one spot in a Premier League team, there was a huge amount at stake being placed on the shoulders of an unknown.

But where things fell down in a recruitment sense at Leeds was when they placed so much stock in senior signings with no Premier League experience. Instead of the tried and tested - signings which would likely have been deemed unambitious - Leeds went for players who they felt might follow a Raphinha-like pathway.

Had Charlie Taylor, for example, rejoined then the excitement and hype would have been so much more muted than when Junior Firpo arrived from none other than Barcelona. And yet which one would best have been suited to the physical and technical defensive demands of the English top flight?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I think when I look at it strategically, the mistake was probably trying to find players who had the potential to be, you know, eight out of 10s or nine out of 10s but maybe were too high risk," said Kinnear on The Square Ball.

HIDDEN GEM - Leeds United were able to snap up players like Willy Gnonto for small fees but ran into trouble signing too many unproven players for the Premier League. Pic: GettyHIDDEN GEM - Leeds United were able to snap up players like Willy Gnonto for small fees but ran into trouble signing too many unproven players for the Premier League. Pic: Getty
HIDDEN GEM - Leeds United were able to snap up players like Willy Gnonto for small fees but ran into trouble signing too many unproven players for the Premier League. Pic: Getty

"Perhaps we should have had a strategy and I think we should have had a strategy where we were hiring six to sevens out of 10s that keep you up, which is something that, you know, maybe a team like Crystal Palace do, who perhaps are being more pragmatic about what their ambitions are and have therefore retained their Premier League status for 10 years because they've recruited along those lines."

Kinnear felt that 'five or six' of the players recruited in the wake of the Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha departures ended up being five out of 10s in terms of their contribution to the side, which cost Leeds dearly. Relegation was not the only bitter pill for Whites to swallow - players whose performances did not match up to the price Leeds paid for them could not be sold at that value in the summer and instead several went on loan, limiting the club's transfer revenue.

The CEO does not accept that Leeds under the previous regime, with Andrea Radrizzani at the helm and Victor Orta in charge of recruitment, got it all wrong on the transfer front because they have had success in finding potential gems.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But he admits that doing the more obvious thing has been a lesson learned and put into practical application by the new 49ers Enterprises regime. Joel Piroe, a proven 20-goal Championship striker, is one example of how that has played out in the transfer window just closed. Djed Spence did it in the Championship with Nottingham Forest. Sam Byram, when fit, is undoubtedly a top-end second tier full-back. Ethan Ampadu is a low risk signing. Jaidon Anthony likewise. Though there are still no guarantees of success, it has all felt a lot less left-field and a lot more obvious this time round.

"I think in a window that we lost Raphinha and Kalvin, who were so critical to securing results in that season, the signings that we made didn't compensate for them," he said.

"I think we could have made in retrospect more pragmatic signings, which didn't have the upside. But again, the key thing for me is that we learn from that and we've taken that forward into this transfer window where I'd like to think that supporters would see there's been a different approach and there has been a more pragmatic, perhaps more obvious approach to the signings. Perhaps a clearer strategy and hopefully one which will deliver."

Kinnear reiterated in his appearance on The Square Ball that Leeds' new ownership group have financial might that would permit more aggression in terms of wage bill and transfer fees, should the club return to the Premier League. But fans will still welcome signings that make sense of themselves immediately, having been burned by ones who promised so much and delivered so little.