After an initial flurry of summer signings, Leeds United’s incoming transfer business is now in the midst of a relative lull before, potentially, sparking back to life.
The Whites want a striker and will seek to complete that piece of business regardless of what happens with their two wanted men, Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha. Anything else will largely depend on activity of the outgoing kind. Losing either Phillips or Raphinha would necessitate replacements, and Leeds may also try to use the cash generated from bumper sales to strengthen in other areas.
If, in what seems like a highly unlikely event, neither Phillips nor Raphinha departs, then that, plus four senior additions, would allow Elland Road chiefs to consider the window with satisfaction.
No matter how black and white the situation ever appears to be with Leeds, however, there is always room for speculation and they continue to be linked with numerous targets.
Some, given their position or price tag, are fanciful but others make a certain amount of sense.
Chief football writer Graham Smyth and digital journalist Joe Donnohue cast their eye over players who would be a good fit, and that either exist currently or could arise in the coming weeks.
Arnaud Kalimuendo is very much on Leeds’ radar but that’s no surprise when so many European clubs admire the PSG striker.
Still only 20, Kalimuendo has two seasons of regular Ligue 1 football under his belt, on loan at Lens, where he impressed L’Equipe writer Romain Lafont. He told The YEP: “Always in movement, a true poison for the defence.
“Very quick and improved his finishing last season, although he’s still to perfect that aspect. He pressed less than Lens’ other forward Florian Sotoca but he works for the team.”
In Lafont’s estimation, Lens couldn’t afford to make Kalimuendo a permanent signing with a 15th-placed Ligue 1 budget, but a move is likely in his near future.
Lucas Demange of Culture PSG told The YEP: “He has probably not yet met with the new PSG management to clarify his future and it is only after this meeting that things should move but he is one of the few players who could bring some money to PSG in terms of sales.”
Demange describes the young Frenchman as a “modern, dynamic striker” who can play across the front line and is best accompanied by another up top.
As for what Leeds need, Jermaine Beckford believes pace and finishing ability will be key for any addition to Marsch’s front line
“[Pace] gives us a different dimension,” he said.
“We haven’t got that out-and-out goal poacher, the guy that floats around the penalty spot in between the 18-yard box and the six-yard box within the width of the posts just waiting to get on the end of crosses or making that run in behind defenders, running directly at goal.”
Beckford could have been describing Eddie Nketiah, couldn’t he? Leeds did want to bring him back and tried, before their conversations with his people made it increasingly clear he would stay at Arsenal.
Other than pace, what both Nketiah and Kalimuendo have in common, according to Smarterscout profiles based on their 2021/22 data, is good ball retention, link-up play, dribbling and a healthy appetite for a shot on goal. Where they differ is that Nketiah is more of a penalty-box receiver of passes and Kalimuendo’s disruption of opposition possession dropped off massively from its 2020/21 level, so didn’t compare at all with Nketiah’s or Bamford’s at his 20/21 peak. Yet, when a defensive duel presented itself, Kalimuendo did very well.
His and Nketiah’s profiles suggest Leeds could be looking for a nippy ‘fox in the box’, but Kalimuendo is enough of an all-rounder to play with and complement a nine like Bamford or a 10 like Joe Gelhardt or Rodrigo. Furthermore, Leeds’ interest in Club Brugge’s Charles De Ketelaere, a versatile 21-year-old AC Milan target who does a lot of his best work as a number 10, hints strongly that the Whites want a well-rounded player who can comfortably operate in a two. Kalimuendo, at 20, with so much potential to improve and 21 senior goals to his name already, would make sense.
Red Bull Salzburg’s Mohamed Camara is another name Leeds have been linked with this window. Despite the Mali international’s obvious link to new signings Rasmus Kristensen and Brenden Aaronson, the 22-year-old poses a genuinely functional solution should Leeds lose Kalvin Phillips to Europe’s cabal of elite clubs.
The Red Bull man is reportedly being tailed by Brighton and Hove Albion, too, which is usually a positive indicator of talent identification. The Seagulls tend to recruit cheaply and effectively, and have experience shopping in Salzburg’s back yard. Last summer, Graham Potter’s side added sought-after midfield juggernaut Enock Mwepu, who impressed during his maiden Premier League campaign.
Leeds may hope the lure of working alongside Marsch once again is enough to persuade Camara the south coast should not be his destination. After all, the defensive midfielder was a favourite student of Marsch’s before a doping ban during the American’s final season in charge at Salzburg.
Camara’s visceral, destructive style mirrors the defensive side Leeds benefit so crucially from when Phillips is in the team; the Malian’s hunch-backed hassling of opponents is extremely effective and suits Marsch’s demand to swarm opponents in possession.
Meanwhile, summer signing No. 3 Marc Roca possesses the poise and craft to float, drill and clip long balls from deep, into wide areas or vertically for a centre-forward to chase. In Marsch’s 4-2-2-2 set-up, it isn’t difficult to see how a Camara-Roca pivot would go some way to mitigating Phillips’ departure.
Dutch attacker Cody Gakpo has also been linked in recent days as a potential replacement for Raphinha, whose departure appears increasingly likely after Arsenal became the first club to lodge a bid earlier this week.
Gakpo is taller, more robust and can play off either flank as well as a supporting forward, scoring 21 goals and registering 15 assists across all competitions for PSV Eindhoven last season. Dutch sources suggest the 23-year-old will likely cost in excess of £30 million, though, which eats significantly into the return Leeds expect to make on Raphinha.
Stylistically, his is a name which fits Leeds United as the team evolves from the one that earned promotion; Gakpo’s positional versatility could resolve not only Leeds’ Raphinha conundrum, but solve the issue facing the club in their recruitment of a centre-forward.
Marsch’s two-striker formation would permit Gakpo to be utilised as a rotation option in that position, whilst featuring frequently in the slightly deeper interior winger pairing.
However Leeds opt to traverse the remaining weeks and months of the window, there is a sense of urgency at Thorp Arch. The club are keen to secure the right players for the right fees ahead of the new season which begins on the first weekend of August.
Several players will be linked with Leeds, and many of them the club will have watched, but only a handful will become United players. The likes of Kalimuendo, Camara and Gakpo tick more boxes than countless others floating in the ether of yet another relentless transfer window.