Victor Orta drops summer transfer hint amid passionate defence of 'risky' Leeds United growth strategy

Leeds United director of football Victor Orta says the club will stick to Marcelo Bielsa's slim squad approach despite the manager's departure.

By Flora Snelson
Saturday, 26th March 2022, 2:24 pm
Updated Saturday, 26th March 2022, 2:26 pm

Bielsa's preference to work with a smaller group of players hurt Leeds this season as a string of injuries forced the Argentine to select from a threadbare squad for weeks on end.

With Leeds' Premier League status in peril, the club sacked Marcelo Bielsa in February but intend to persist with the departed manager's commitment to a smaller squad.

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This week Orta revealed that the Whites plan to buy 'one or two' established players in the summer transfer window, with youth players making up the numbers as developing the club's youth pathway is the only way to compete with Premier League opponents with significantly greater funds.

The director of football cited recent game-changing contributions made by the club's youth prospects as evidence of the policy's success, though he acknowledged that the strategy was not without risk.

"I believe in a project that is one of Marcelo Bielsa’s legacies," Orta told TGG’s Scouting and Recruitment Webinar. "If you believe in youth development you need to prove it. Our idea is 18 professionals and the other four players all with the under-23s because we believe in youth development and want to give responsibility to the academy.”

“It’s true that it’s risky. It’s true that if you have these four players with more experience, perhaps the results in the short-term will be better.

Nineteen-year-old Joe Gelhardt has made five goal contributions for Leeds United this season. Pic: Stu Forster.

"The other day we win a difficult game against Wolves with Charlie Cresswell, Sam Greenwood and Kirstoffer Klaesson on the pitch and on another day Joe Gelhardt scores to make it 2-1 against Norwich and Lewis Bate is in the team that beats West Ham.

“And obviously another time, score with Joe Gelhardt. Or when we win at West Ham with Leo Hjelde. For the medium to long term of the club, to build the players is really important."

Orta recognises that Leeds' spending power is limited relative to other Premier League clubs and insists that wise recruitment is the best way to address the inequality.

Leeds United is not a team that can be in the market for £150m each summer," Orta said. "To reduce the gap we need to build careers. We can buy one or two careers per summer, but the rest, we need to build careers.

Leeds United director of football Victor Orta. Pic: Lynne Cameron.

“The only way to build careers is to make our people anticipate talent – to create players at 14 or 15 who can be future Premier League players and create a pathway there.

“The short-term impact of the squad is relevant and we are struggling this season with relegation. Last year with the same methodology we finished 9th and I know more times it will be difficult.

“But I believe in my scouting department. What is better for me? Spending £1m on Joe Gelhardt or £500m for a 31-year-old striker? I believe in the first.

“It’s the only way Leeds can grow. The only other way is ‘I am going to buy [players with established] careers’. But you always lose that way because there are other clubs with more money, more investment. I need to build careers here.”

Jesse Marsch embraces Sam Greenwood after the young attacker assisted Rodrigo's equaliser during Leeds United's 3-2 win over Wolves. Pic: Laurence Griffiths.

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