Three statements already made by Leeds United summer transfers with significant spend possible
And just like that, Leeds United have spent £35m.
Rather, they will spend £35m, in time, once the deals for Brenden Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen are officially ratified and payments are made during the course of the two players’ Elland Road stays.
Committing to such a sum for just two signings, before the transfer window has even opened, makes for a hat-trick of irrefutable statements.
Firstly, they are working efficiently. Reaching agreements on two deals and hoping to complete a third addition by the end of next week, is a sign that Leeds knew exactly what they needed and wanted long before the season came to a close. Staying up was the starter pistol on their summer recruitment but the preparation had evidently already been done. Transfers can be straightforward but they can also be horribly complicated and so easily fall apart for myriad reasons. The Michael Cuisance saga was a particularly dramatic example. Doing such swift business, with the football group at the centre of the Jean-Kevin Augustin dispute no less, will bring no small measure of relief and satisfaction in the offices at Elland Road.
Leeds United news: Opening striker ‘bid submitted’ as Chelsea suffer double injury blow
Jesse Marsch shares Leeds United medical team's Patrick Bamford injury prevention plan
‘Excellent’ - Leeds United player hailed as deal agreed
Leeds United see ‘bid rejected’ for starlet as rivals ‘submit £18m offer’ for striker ‘target’
Fresh Leeds United injury list and return date info as striker pictured at local kickaround
The second thing that cannot be argued is that Leeds are well on their way to improving the squad and raising its floor. Last season, if Luke Ayling was fit, he played. Next season, when he returns to fitness, he’s going to be hounded for the right-back starting place by a ‘Great Dane’. Aaronson is a cat among the pigeons who can keep Jack Harrison, Daniel James and, if he stays, Raphinha on their toes in the attacking midfield slots.
Leeds need to get to a place where their substitutes’ bench says Premier League quality and not just Premier League potential. Jesse Marsch must strike a balance in his replacements, between experienced operators and young hopefuls, in order to ensure performances aren’t as hard-hit by injuries and, at the same time, continue developing the careers of a group of youngsters with very high ceilings.
This summer already feels like the start of what could and should be a transition for the club, from the team that earned promotion to a fully established top-flight squad boasting the necessary quality and depth. Starters becoming substitutes and substitutes who could be starters is part of that.
It’s costly business. If the next signing is in the same £10m ball park or upwards, the board will be well on their way to a £50m outlay, with probably two or three positions still to strengthen after that and a raft of Under-23s targets in mind to boot. It remains to be seen if the totality of Leeds’ business will be dependent on an exit for a prize asset, but £70m or £80m doesn’t feel at all like an unrealistic summer spend when the needs of the squad are taken into account. Spend that, however, and financial commitment cannot be disputed.
And with what they’ve spent already, there is no doubt that Marsch is being backed. Arguments, now largely redundant ones, over whether or not Marcelo Bielsa was sufficiently supported in the transfer market will rage for decades, even if the Argentine himself never uttered a word of dissent or showed any sign of dissatisfaction. On the contrary, he publicly, positively raved over the work of Victor Orta and his department. Yet even that and the club’s own unwavering insistence that they could not have done more to try and give Bielsa what he needed, has failed to shed a positive light or real clarity on last summer’s recruitment.
This summer is already far easier to understand and analyse because the fingerprints are thus far so identifiable. Making two of Marsch’s former players their first two signings was a huge statement of belief in what the manager says he can do at Elland Road.
Orta has likely tracked both these players for years (they will have been in his vast database) yet both are inextricably linked with Marsch. Given some of the other links popping up in the media, some of which like Taty Castellanos are not goers, the Red Bull Leeds quips come easy. Other energy drinks are available, folks, although the RB Salzburg pond is a great one to go fishing in when you look at the catches so many other teams have taken there. But, considering how much importance Orta has always placed on the personality, character and psychological profile of new signings, it makes sense to put your money where the head coach’s mouth is. “To minimalise the likelihood of a new signing that will ‘fail’, we have three criteria that we take into consideration while analysing a player: the technical level, psychological level and the level of transition,” Orta said in 2018.
Signings like these two make all the more sense then, if Marsch can attest to not only their skills, but their ability to fit into the group. He can offer no guarantees that either Aaronson or Kristensen will cope with playing for Leeds, in the Premier League, in the glare of constant scrutiny, but his experience of working with them is a considerable leg-up that lessens the risk of a signing crashing and burning.
Orta won’t like this being said because his ideal is for the success of a signing to be a collective one with shared credit for everyone who played a part, from owner down to scout or analyst, but if they’re not Marsch’s signings then they are his players. His presence here was a clincher. They know him and he knows them, inside out.
The risk of any perception of favouritism or a divide between the inherited and the Red Bull gang feels minimal given how much of Marsch’s energy went into making the group he found when he walked in feel important. Everyone was made to assume their own part in it and, after what they went through together, the vast majority will feel just as much a Marsch player as anyone he worked with previously.
All that remains, then, is for Marsch to make sure it was £35m well spent.