Leeds United Q and A: Summer signings, outgoings, Junior Firpo, Matheus Cunha, Noa Lang, Gjanni Alioski's deal and Marcelo Bielsa's future

The Leeds United players not involved in the Euros will report back to the city this week for pre-season testing, as Victor Orta strives to add to their number.

Sunday, 27th June 2021, 4:01 pm
Updated Sunday, 27th June 2021, 4:04 pm
BIG TIME - Leeds United player of interest Junior Firpo in Champions League action for Barcelona against Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe. Pic: Getty

Orta is progressing in his hunt for a midfielder, along with a left-back, while the addition of a winger appears more likely to go further into the window.

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As well as at least a trio of first team signings, Leeds are planning to bolster the academy and Under 23 squads, with a young player expected to join the club over the next week.

Here are the questions the YEP readers have been asking and what we can say right now.

Leeds United Q and A

Last updated: Sunday, 27 June, 2021, 15:50

    @richiejones889: Has there ever been concrete interest in Cunha or is it all just fan speculation? And with Firpo’s name being thrown around for a LB, does that rule us out of the chase for Galan and Perraud?

    Victor Orta has liked Matheus Cunha for a while. You can see why, he’s versatile and dangerous and he can press. So it’s not just fan speculation, but he is one that’s currently rated as ‘unlikely’ no matter how flirtatious he may be with Whites fans on social media. As for left-backs, Leeds can’t definitively rule out their other options because Firpo is wanted by other clubs and there’s no deal just yet. Galan, I’m told, isn’t as high up the list as you’d think for a player so heavily linked. Perraud looks like he’s off to Southampton. By the time the summer window rolled around, for whatever reason, the interest in him didn’t seem as hot as was previously reported.

    @TheOneUtdLUFC: How many first team signings do you expect and in what areas?

    A left-back, obviously, a central midfielder and a winger are all expected. That doesn’t mean they won’t do more business but they are the priorities and if those deals take up the budget or the vast majority of it, then that might well be that. Some 23s recruitment will happen, definitely, given some of the youngsters they want would cost mere compensation rather than severe fees.

    @LUFCjamie1919: Have the club made any effort to move Kiko Casilla on this summer or do you expect him to remain at the club? Also any inkling on when a decision will be made by Alioski regarding his future?

    The Kiko Casilla one is interesting. I wouldn’t expect the club to try and move him on while he retains Marcelo Bielsa’s backing. So if Casilla is happy to stick around and play second fiddle again to Illan Meslier, which he undoubtedly will, then I can’t see the club shifting him on. The gossip that has emerged about various goalkeepers this summer has to be taken with a huge pinch of salt because some of the names would want football - Sam Johnstone for example - and there isn’t really a vacancy at Leeds for a first team goalkeeper. Meslier is the number one for a lot of very good reasons.

    As for Gjanni Alioski, his contract runs out on Thursday and I expect from a logistics point of view that probably adds some level of difficulty. It’d be much simpler for him to remain if he put pen to paper before the deal expires. It doesn’t mean he won’t or can’t stay and I don’t get the feeling Leeds have put a strict deadline on it just yet but they want to sign a left-back and once they do, they’ll need to know Alioski’s intentions. If he departs I could see them bringing in a youngster at left-back, so they have the new face starting, with Stuart Dallas, Leif Davis and a young prospect all acting as cover in that position.

    Alioski has a lot to think about. There are good reasons to stay - he’s been settled at the club for a while, he’s popular, he has improved under Marcelo Bielsa and the Premier League experience with crowds will be something to relish. His potential reasons to depart won’t just be financial but you have to think he will be offered more elsewhere, and Leeds making it so abundantly clear they want to sign a left-back might have left a sour taste or a slight feeling of being underappreciated, regardless of how natural it is to build a bigger, better squad to try and target European football. If he stays it will be a major boost for Leeds because as it showed last season, particularly towards the end, he can more than do a job in the top flight. That would suddenly become a very strong position for Leeds.

    @Leedsmano04: Any idea if Leeds are looking at renewing players such as Bamford, Raphinha and Phillips’ contracts or any others?

    Patrick Bamford’s contract was due to be part of the summer business so you would expect that one to happen. It won’t be the only one renewed. I would be surprised if Raphinha’s was renewed after just one season, he’s not yet been at the club for a year, although I understand why you would ask. As for Phillips, logic dictates that a player as important as he is would be on the agenda for a new deal sooner or later. I’ve had no suggestion that talks have begun yet though. What is certain is that he’s going no where, regardless.

    @Leemac1986: Any news with Marcelo and Alioski signing new deals?

    Marcelo Bielsa will sign a new deal with Leeds United. Everything about his conduct suggests he’s all in for at least another season at Elland Road. Staying put this summer to oversee the Thorp Arch work says it all. It’s always a complicated one, with his staff coming as part of the package. No one at Leeds has sounded in the least bit nervous or even impatient in recent weeks or months. They’re as confident as they’ve ever been that he’s committed.

    As for Alioski, there’s no news. It’s getting close to decision time though.

    @holtdaniel123: Any first teamers that could realistically leave this summer? Likes of Costa, Poveda, Shackleton, Forshaw etc? If we’re signing players in their positions they’re gonna be even more out of favour?

    It’s a good question. There has been little talk at all of shipping first teamers out this summer. Marcelo Bielsa doesn’t like having a big squad so it’s always possible that once the summer’s incoming business is sorted one or two could leave, in the way Barry Douglas opted to. It will largely be down to player preference, because as we know Douglas had the option to stick around, even if he knew he wasn’t going to play much.

    Bielsa has always really liked Poveda, so I would be shocked if he left the club.

    Shackleton is a big part of the squad, he’s versatile and highly rated by Bielsa, but he hasn’t been playing. He’s very young, still, so time is on his side but he won’t want to sit on the bench forever. Seeing some of his fellow youngsters enjoying senior football elsewhere must surely have put the idea in his head.

    As for Forshaw, we might get an update on how he’s progressing when they return for pre-season training. There was a lot of satisfaction over how he managed to come back and play in that 23s game and the set-back he suffered was not said to have been a major one. If he can get fit, he certainly gives Bielsa an option.

    And Costa, although an important player in the promotion-winning season, didn’t hit the heights last season for me and struggled to make the kind of impact Raphinha did. The arrival of yet another winger would put a question mark over Costa’s future, for me.

    @LUFC_MattJ: Who actually makes the decisions on signings? Does Bielsa tell Orta to buy Player A and so on?

    There will be players identified by Bielsa’s own staff and we know there have been players he has liked and suggested to Orta, but a lot of the recruitment will be suggested by the director of football and his team and then agreed with the head coach. Bielsa has always been keen to highlight Orta’s role in finding and then signing players. Robin Koch was a player he watched for a long time, Raphinha too. Rodrigo was obviously on Bielsa’s radar, but I believe it was Orta who took the possibility of signing him to the Argentine and then he was given the green light to go and get him. The Bielsa-Orta relationship is fascinating but it appears to work very well on the recruitment front. They’ll be in constant dialogue because Orta needs to know that what he’s doing is going to be the right business for Bielsa. His past history at other clubs tells you all about how important it is for a sporting director and a head coach to be on the same page.

    @shaneor14: Is there any truth in the Noa Lang and Cunha rumours? And If true would it be one or the other or both? Or is this another Rodrigo De Paul type situation?

    Noa Lang is a player they definitely like. I don’t get the feeling the signing of a winger is imminent, that one appears more likely to take a bit longer than the left-back and the midfielder. It may be that things need to fall into place at other clubs before the picture becomes clearer on the winger front. I would be very surprised if they went for someone like Lang and someone like Cunha as well, an either/or situation feels more likely. But we’re told Cunha is ‘unlikely’ at present in any case. That said, you’d have thought Rodrigo and Raphinha were unlikely until they posed in white shirts.

    @THELUFCLAD: You say Cunha is unlikely...is that due to the fee or is he just not a primary target like other outlets are reporting?

    I think the reports of Bielsa demanding that Orta goes out and gets Cunha are to be taken with a huge pinch of salt. I think he’s categorised as unlikely for a number of reasons, right now but I don’t get the sense that the fee would be prohobitive.

    @JordyP1993: On the CM, have you any idea what the rationale behind it is? What I mean is are we looking for a 4 who can help support and cover for KP if he’s out for example or are they looking for a number 8, Klich type player? Or is it a 10 who will be looking to takeover from the vacated spot of Pablo and allow Rodrigo to be a backup/main striker again? Or is it sort of a player with attributes to cover two or three of those positions?

    An all-rounder seems more likely than a number 10 specialist, when it comes to the midfielder. I think where they need cover most is deeper than the attacking midfield role. Someone who could fill in for Kalvin Phillips or Mateusz Klich would be ideal. Remember that last summer the midfielder they went for was Michael Cuisance, whose primary strength appears to be picking the ball up in deeper positions and driving forward. He would have been able to cover for Klich, at the very least, and maybe even Phillips. But with Koch and Struijk, Bielsa has other options for the CDM slot. Struijk hasn’t looked convincing there and Koch had mixed fortunes, however.

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