Leeds United nostalgia: Becchio’s story may need new chapter

Luciano Becchio.
Luciano Becchio.
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For a club blighted by departures in the past few seasons, very few of them were as avoidable or as lamentable as that of Argentinian frontman Luciano Becchio.

Becchio’s exit from Leeds United last January came on the back of his entry into the top 10 of the club’s all-time goalscorers, an honour that symbolises his importance to Leeds during his time at Elland Road.

Few would have predicted Becchio’s rise when he first arrived at the club.

He impressed on trial having turned up at pre-season camp in Ireland with only his boots.

His career before then had been a circuitous one, beginning in the academy at Boca Juniors alongside Carlos Tevez but failing to appear for their first team before moving to Europe.

Becchio ended up in Spain, where ten appearances for Barcelona B were followed by a move to Merida UD where he scored 28 goals in 50 games.

It was at Leeds that he made his name, though, with Becchio referring to his years at Elland Road as the “most marvellous” of his career.

The emotion felt by United fans about Becchio’s departure was echoed by the man himself, who said: “I will carry the affection and love of the Leeds fans in my heart.”

When you hear the phrase Argentinian striker, few imagine Becchio as he is. Strong, hard working and with an eye for a headed goal, Becchio was more Lee Chapman than Lionel Messi.

Whilst he was involved in the successes of League One, such as the sterling FA Cup run and eventual promotion, Becchio only became a star after United switched to a system built for one striker.

Flanked by Max Gradel and Robert Snodgrass and backed up by Jonny Howson, Becchio was rampant, plundering 20 goals as Grayson’s front four developed into one of the outstanding attacking units in the Championship.

Injury ultimately curtailed Becchio’s season and with his absence Leeds fell away from the promotion-chasing pack.

This injury limited his displays the following year, though he still scored 11 times.

In his last six months at Elland Road, however, Becchio was once again performing at a top level, his goal against Chelsea in the League Cup a clear highlight.

Memories of him remain relatively untainted with no lean spell to justify his sale to Norwich City at a time when the club were supposed to be pushing forward. This is why his shadow still looms large over the team at Leeds, with great demand for his return every time the notion of signing a new striker crops up.

Becchio’s spell at Norwich has been a disappointment.

Ultimately, Becchio’s importance to the club’s lower league years will probably be remembered fondly by those who had opportunity to watch him. A genuine poacher, Becchio’s inherent ability to convert chances means it will take a long time for him to fade from the record books.

Many fans still long for his return. And there is a sense that Becchio’s history at Elland Road might yet require another chapter.

Luke Ayling.

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