Phil Hay: Ronaldo Vieira’s unexpected Elland Road departure an ‘opportunistic move’

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RONALDO VIEIRA will be as surprised as anyone to find himself in an obligatory new-signing photo. There was no thought in his head of quitting Leeds United this summer; no transfer request, no agitation and no real awareness that Serie A and Sampdoria might call.

Sampdoria came for him on Sunday afternoon and by the following evening he was on a plane to Genoa. There are substantial perks arising from Vieira’s transfer to Italy, not least a contract which doubles his wage, but he felt more than a touch of reluctance when he boarded his flight. This was Leeds United’s deal and, in no small part, Leeds United’s decision.

Ronaldo Vieira

Ronaldo Vieira

When he first took the job of head coach at Elland Road, Marcelo Bielsa was unambiguous in identifying players who he wanted the club to jettison. Vieira did not feature on that list. The midfielder’s exit is an opportunistic move rather than something Bielsa had pushed for but when Sampdoria tabled their bid, all parties agreed that the money was worth taking.

Sources at Elland Road say the offer was worth £7.7m – roughly eight million euros – and could rise to round £10m depending on add-ons. Reports in Italy quote a lower figure of around £6m.

Leeds’ rationale was twofold: that Vieira did not figure at the front of Bielsa’s plans, a peripheral presence in pre-season, and was coming out of an underwhelming second year as a professional. In short, the club gambled on the chance that Sampdoria’s fee will be seen as good money.

Vieira at his best has the potential to prove Leeds wrong. Just as Lewis Cook is making his £6m transfer to Bournemouth look badly undervalued, Leeds run the risk of doing what so many regimes have done before: losing youngsters with intrinsic talent and value.

The fact remains that the poster boy of the Radrizzani takeover, the player who signed a four-year contract the day after that transfer went through, has been deemed saleable 15 months later and allowed to leave without much of a fight.

Phil Hay

There are technical aspects of Vieira’s game which require improvement and a persistent issues with tendonitis in one knee but he is an England Under-21 international who turned 20 just two weeks ago. The physicality and maturity which surprised everyone under Garry Monk, and Steve McClaren more than most, does not seem so far behind him.

The prospect of Italian football should excite him. He gets a pay rise, the exposure of a top European league and dates at Juventus, Napoli, Inter, Milan and both Roman clubs.

But the fact remains that the poster boy of the Radrizzani takeover, the player who signed a four-year contract the day after that transfer went through, has been deemed saleable 15 months later and allowed to leave without much of a fight. An astute play on the club’s part or a long-term error? The truth will out.

Ronaldo Vieira playing for England U21s in the Toulon tournament earlier this summer.

Ronaldo Vieira playing for England U21s in the Toulon tournament earlier this summer.

Ronaldo Vieira.

Ronaldo Vieira.