Record Adidas shirt sales, a record signing in Rodrigo but this is still the Leeds United you know as Marcelo Bielsa paints new masterpiece
Record shirt sales, record sponsorship deals, record signings, but this is still the Leeds United you know and love.
Rodrigo in a pristine white Adidas shirt bearing new logos paints a different picture to the one Leeds fans have become accustomed to since their 2004 Premier League exit.
There are Whites fans for whom marquee signings with Champions League experience and top-flight commercial deals are a strange new phenomena.
Under the shiny new exterior of a shirt that brought in around £850,000 on its first day on sale £600,000 on day two, the beating heart is still very much Leeds.
Rodrigo and anyone else who comes through the door as the cameras flash will soon know that there is already a culture – a strong one – and an identity to which they must now conform.
This is the club where new signings don’t walk into competitive games, they run into contention for an Under-23s start. You might have cost an arm and a leg to bring to Thorp Arch but Patrick Bamford is part of the furniture and you’ve got your work cut out to unseat him.
And this is the club where Mateusz Klich’s caustic wit erodes the cool veneer of his team-mates’ social media output. If any player can give the new boys the full picture of what it takes to fit in, it’s the man who went from a player the club were happy to farm out on loan to the player they happily allow to graffiti the walls of the stadium.
What it took for Klich to become ingrained in Leeds culture wasn’t a big money transfer or a stellar CV, it was something far less sexy.
The masterpiece that Bielsa painted in the Championship last season was priceless and intricate but its foundation was old fashioned and simple – hard work.
Continuity was the theme of his second campaign in charge of the Whites and it will remain so for his first tilt at the Premier League. Bielsa has faith in players that operated so brilliantly in the second tier and believes they can represent the club and his ideas well enough in the top flight, hence the quality over quantity approach to recruitment.
It is the same approach that stood Sheffield United in such good stead in their return to the Premier League.
Rodrigo all but done and dusted, focus will turn to Robin Koch, a centre-half who can play in midfield but has a profile somewhere between that of Ben White and Liam Cooper. He can pass it and he can head it.
They want a third first-team signing too and might possibly look to do a loan after that, but there isn’t much else to be done when it comes to first-team additions.
The line-up for the first game at Anfield will be wildly familiar and, when Leeds get hold of the ball, the style and philosophy will not have changed much.
The masterpiece Bielsa can create, with the tools at his disposal and on the brand new and terrifyingly difficult to work with canvas of the Premier League, is not going to look the same as his last effort.
What Leeds fans expect from 2020/21 has to be different to 2019/20, or they won’t appreciate and value the fine detail of Bielsa’s work in the same way they did when wins and dominant performances came as standard.
Amid the excitement of new continental signings with international pedigree – signings in Rodrigo’s case that the club didn’t expect to be able to land, given their initial brief was top-end Championship stars – there must be realism.
The artistry will still be there but you might have to look a little harder to see it and look past the results for it.
What is to come will be a real test of Leeds fans’ ability to see football the way their head coach wants them to see it.
Rodrigo might be a masterstroke of a signing, proven by his hard work and conformity to the system rather than his goals.
Lauding performances that don’t bring reward in the table is a discipline to be mastered, if this season is to be enjoyed in full, as it should be.
A finish in lower mid-table would be a stunning achievement. This season beauty is in the eye of the beholder.