Marcelo Bielsa will pack up his things later this week and head back to England for the start of his second dance with the Championship. Training starts for most of Leeds United’s players on Monday at the end of what will feel like the briefest of breaks.
Bielsa discussed his plans with United’s hierarchy before flying out to see his family in South America and the club’s head coach was hopeful of seeing breakthroughs in the transfer market during his absence.
As it stands, Leeds are to make progress either way: no players in and no players out with pre-season about to begin.
United want wingers more than anything else in this window and will attempt to sign three before the transfer deadline passes in early August. Bielsa has also placed significant value on a defender from Brighton whose last brush with Leeds came with the Newport County side who embarrassed United in the FA Cup in January 2018.
Here, the YEP looks at Bielsa’s confirmed targets and the club’s chances of landing them:
Helder Costa (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
That Leeds are even spending time pursuing Costa suggests the door to a loan deal is genuinely open at Molineux. Taking Costa on a permanent basis is out of the question.
The winger broke Wolves’ transfer record when he arrived from Benfica for £13m two years ago and Leeds are hoping the relationship between their chairman, Andrea Radrizzani, and Jorge Mendes - the agent and powerhouse behind Wolves’ owner Fosun - will allow them to recruit Costa for an affordable share of his wage.
Radrizzani crossed Wolves during their run to the Championship title by questioning how it was that the club were managing to fund top-level players like Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota in the EFL but the chill between them has thawed since then. Sources at Elland Road describe Costa as Leeds’ number one target.
Ryan Kent (Liverpool)
In terms of finances, Kent falls into the same category as Costa: if he or Liverpool hold out for a permanent switch then Leeds will drop out of the bidding.
Kent could be forgiven for wanting to settle down after temporary spells at Coventry, Barnsley, Freiburg, Bristol City and Rangers but Liverpool saw this season how much a successful year in the Championship can do for the value of an academy product like Harry Wilson.
Rangers want to take Kent north again after he won the Scottish Premiership’s young player of the year award and their manager, Steven Gerrard, knows which buttons to press at Anfield. But Leeds are crossing their fingers that Liverpool and Kent can see the merits of a Championship campaign. Even on loan, Kent is highly-rated enough to command a sizeable fee.
Jack Harrison (Manchester City)
A winger who Leeds know inside out after his initial spell under Bielsa. Harrison split opinion amongst those who watched him and came up with only two assists during the 46-game Championship term but Bielsa, who made the Harrison loan happen by speaking directly to Pep Guardiola last summer, was adamant that he would take the 22-year-old again if Manchester City were happy for him to spend a second year at Elland Road.
Harrison went on City’s pre-season tour 12 months ago and might wait to see whether Guardiola offers him another chink of light but the fact that the Spaniard has been receptive to sending him back to Leeds suggests that this deal is likely to happen.
Ben White (Brighton)
Memories of White in these parts depend on how much anyone wants to recall Leeds’ humiliating FA Cup defeat to Newport County. White was in the Newport defence on that grim afternoon, on loan from Brighton, and Leeds have been monitoring him for the best part of 18 months.
The 21-year-old is a ball-playing centre-half who would fit with Bielsa’s style and fit into Leeds’ wage structure comfortably, although Brighton - despite the immovable presence of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy in the middle of their defence - are only interested in temporary offers.
White went to Peterborough United in January and footage of his performances found favour with Bielsa, who is nothing if not drawn to signing raw and promising youngsters.