What does Andrea Radrizzani mean after admitting Leeds United will have a 'difficult' summer transfer window?
The challenging summer which Andrea Radrizzani anticipates at Leeds United will not be entirely unlike his first two transfer windows as owner.
The influx will be much smaller than his first and the requirements may differ from his second but Radrizzani has an established approach to signings: the cost of ins balancing the cost of outs and nothing breaking the bank.
Leeds lose money year on year and will post a sizeable loss at the end of the 2018-19 accounting period, in spite of large attendances at Elland Road and rising commercial revenue, but the trickle of cash is never allowed to run away with itself.
Chris Wood’s sale helped to finance the many transfers completed in 2017. Last summer began with an £11m investment from the San Francisco 49ers and ended with Ronaldo Vieira being used to finance Patrick Bamford’s arrival from Middlesbrough.
There has rarely been any pretence from Radrizzani that Leeds can spend what they please and his justification for selling Vieira - a deal done despite Marcelo Bielsa promising to double the midfielder’s value if he stayed at Elland Road - was that £45m had been ploughed into the club between him and the 49ers and United “cannot just buy players and never sell any.”
The current transfer window might run in the same way and Leeds tried to buck the trend in the Championship by chasing automatic promotion without paying through the nose for it.
In the end they fell narrowly short.
The club are being linked with countless players already and sources abroad speak of interest in Fenerbahce striker Michael Frey and centre-back Silvan Hefti, a Switzerland Under-21 international at St Gallen, but the main focus in the transfer market will be domestic again and concentrated on the Premier League loan market.
United are interested in re-signing Jack Harrison from Manchester City, a winger who drew mixed reviews while ticking many of Bielsa’s boxes, but there is an acceptance among the recruitment team that their temporary deals were underwhelming: Jamal Blackman failing to make one league appearance before breaking his leg, Lewis Baker looking lost and Izzy Brown kicking his heels in between two outings as a substitute.
Bielsa’s most effective players were those who were on the books before he arrived and, in some cases, on the books before Radrizzani’s takeover.
Bielsa, assuming he agrees to a second year as head coach, will depend on a similar core again.
Leeds have obvious assets who they could choose to cash-in on - Kalvin Phillips, Pontus Jansson, Jack Clarke and Kemar Roofe - and Tottenham Hotspur appear to be making moves to bid for Clarke but there is money to be raised from fringe players too and those who spent the season on loan elsewhere.
Trabzonspor are ready to pay a seven-figure fee to take Caleb Ekuban back to Turkey permanently.
Samuel Saiz failed to win a full-time switch to Getafe but Leeds are confident that another club in Spain or elsewhere will take him.
Greuther Fuerth are believed to lack the funds to tie up Yosuke Ideguchi but the Japan international is another who United should be able to recoup money from.
Radrizzani indicated this week, during a seminar at the FT Business of Football summit, that Leeds would make concerted use of their academy again after a term in which the debuts handed out by Bielsa to Under-23 players ran close to double figures.
But the challenge over the next three months will be to give their head coach the additional depth and extra strands of quality and nous which were lacking in the decisive moments this season.
Radrizzani cut to the chase by talking of “a difficult summer in terms of the transfer market” and it is likely to be one of those; a balancing act at a club who pay close attention to the numbers, while hoping Bielsa can turn third place in the Championship into second or first.