Smoke and no fires - names to rule out as Leeds United and Victor Orta go after mystery left-back and four other targets

Leeds United director of football Victor Orta spoke with a left-back at the weekend.

By Graham Smyth
Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 4:44 am
HEAVILY LINKED - Nicolas Tagliafico of Ajax has been consistently linked with a move to fill the left-back slot at Leeds United but a source close to the player insists no talks with the Whites have taken place. Pic: Getty
HEAVILY LINKED - Nicolas Tagliafico of Ajax has been consistently linked with a move to fill the left-back slot at Leeds United but a source close to the player insists no talks with the Whites have taken place. Pic: Getty

The player in question has, we’re told, the right attitude to play for Marcelo Bielsa and, on the strength of the conversation, moved into a strong position with regards to a possible Elland Road move.

It was at least the second time Orta conversed with a left-back last week, having sat down with Gjanni Alioski to discuss his future with Leeds.

Regardless of whether or not Alioski remains, Leeds will still seek to buy a left-back, but they are still keen to keep their North Macedonian international.

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He’s yet to accept the offer and, at 29 years of age, can’t be blamed for thinking long and hard about what might be his last, potentially lucrative deal and putting his family’s future first.

He could not be blamed for feeling just a little burnt by the flak he took in the wake of rumours he had signed a pre-contract agreement with Galatasary, a club whose mere mention brings the pain of a year 2000 double murder back to the surface for Leeds fans.

Those rumours were not true; Alioski had not put pen to paper on any agreement with any club before he met with Orta last week.

It was on the internet, though.

Just as the story of Leeds United’s ‘serious’ interest in Nicolas Tagliafico has been all over the internet for weeks, despite a source close to the player suggesting to The YEP that no conversations with the Whites have even taken place.

Just as Trent Alexander-Arnold’s likely exclusion from the England squad was all over the internet, when Gareth Southgate had spoken to the Liverpool full-back three weeks prior to give him the good news for the Euros.

It’s difficult to work out in that last scenario but, more often than not, when it comes to football and fake news, somewhere stands to benefit. Of course in football things change, quickly, and information given in good faith can be true one day and not the next but you’d have to be very naive to rule out the possibility of games being played across back pages and social media channels.

It might not harm a player’s chances of earning the best possible new contract with his current employer if his name is linked with a club of equal or better stature and financial might. For a selling club, if a player’s potential move elsewhere leaks, then it might just alert an unexpected interested party. And, sometimes, when there’s smoke it looks suspiciously like there’s no fire whatsoever, other than someone’s burning desire to harvest clicks for their website.

With Leeds, often there’s no actual fire but a phone call from Orta, Gaby Ruiz or someone in the scouting department can and has, in the past sparked, a story.

Orta and his team monitor many, many players. They enquire about many players - he’s talking to five right now in the hope of bringing three of them to Elland Road this summer. Some of the calls they make will be about players who could be alternative, back-up plans if the priority signings fall through and some are not a realistic target for right now, but it’s worth checking in and registering even just a hint of interest, just in case - Raphinha is the living, breathing, goalscoring, nutmegging proof of that.

So back to that left-back. Whoever it is must fit a certain criteria to even be considered for Marcelo Bielsa’s squad and that narrows down the possibilities somewhat. Some of the players in that position being linked to Leeds will make sense, as potential additions. You could see a Romain Perraud or an Owen Wijndal fitting the bill. Neither of them were in conversation with Orta, though.

Javi Galán is the new name favourited by the gossip columns and you could see why. There’s a lot to like about Álex Grimaldo of Benfica too. Neither of them are the player Leeds have made progress with.

The transfer window doesn’t open until next week and, even if a deal for a left-back was to be done by the end of this month, things would have had to have moved quickly, so nothing is imminent and ideally, from Leeds’ perspective, they’ll keep it under wraps for as long as possible.

Ultimately, any player not employed by Leeds is just a name on the internet until such a time as he flies into Leeds Bradford Airport, and even then, as the Michael Cuisance saga proved, it can mean nothing.

Transfer speculation can be exciting and it’s usually harmless enough, causing only a mild headache for communications departments dealing with press enquiries and trying to keep a lid on supporter expectation but, as the Alioski and Galatasaray story showed, gossip is not always without consequence. Believe it when you see it.