The long-suffering Leeds United fans seem to endlessly have something to complain about, but on the cusp of their centenary year the air is filled with hope and optimism.
This new-found positivity seems to have run parallel to the latest regime in charge of the club, after years of bad relationships with past owners that ultimately only succeeded in frustrating the fans.
Radrizzani, the owner of international sports TV network Eleven Sports, completed his take-over of ‘The Whites’ in 2017 when he bought out his fellow Italian, Massimo Cellino.
In that time, he has taken steps to attempt to drag the club into the modern era – he bought back the club’s iconic Elland Road stadium for the first time since 2004, he welcomed back Leeds Ladies into the Leeds United family after their funding had previously been revoked by Cellino and he has announced potentially beneficial partnerships with NFL side the San Francisco 49ers and Aspire Academy, based in Qatar.
He also devised an ill-advised plan to change the badge to the “Leeds Salute,” but that was knocked on the head almost the moment it was revealed. The less said about that the better.
On a more positive note, Radrizanni has also gone about restructuring the club’s business model, with Angus Kinnear as Chief Executive and, perhaps more importantly from a fans point of view, Victor Orta as Director of Football.
This modern, progressive approach to managing a football club has been mirrored in last season’s coveted managerial appointment of Bielsa who, in his first season, transformed the football being played on the pitch and consequently improved the mood in the city as a whole.
Now though, we’re in the off-season and there’s only one thing on football fan’s minds: transfers.
There have been many comings and goings at Leeds in recent seasons. The outgoings are usually met with a sigh of regret and familiarity as the club has had to sell their most promising young players to help fund in-comings, which more often than not, have been somewhat underwhelming.
This is one thing that Radrizzani hasn’t changed. Last summer’s sale of the promising, robust central midfielder, Ronaldo Viera to Sampdoria continued this the familiar theme.
With the ever tightening and restrictive rules of Financial Fair Play tying one of clubs’ hands behind their backs, it leaves those in charge of transfers with two obvious options: bring players in on loan and/or sell existing players to afford new ones.
It’s well documented that Leeds are looking to trim the fat, with Bielsa happy for Radrizzani and Orta to cash in on many of the club’s fringe players and players that were shipped out on loan last season. The problem is, these players aren’t likely to command huge transfer fees so the reinvestment from any potential sales are not going to go very far.
The big money will come from selling the players that stood out last season as established first team regulars or future stars and two names that keep cropping up are both graduates of West Yorkshire club’s productive youth academy: Kalvin Phillips and Jack Clarke.
The former has reportedly spoken to his agent of his desire to stay at Leeds. He was an integral part of Bielsa’s nearly-men last season and taking his boyhood club to the Premier League is a genuine possibility next year.
Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
I’m fairly certain that he is committed to that dream and, coupled with the fact that Bielsa will likely go berserk if Phillips were sold, I reckon we’ll be seeing him in that defensive midfield role at Elland Road next season.
Clarke, on the other hand, hasn’t managed to cement his place in the team, despite many admirable substitute performances where he displayed his evident talent.
It would make a lot more sense for all involved if the 18-year-old were sold, providing that the right money comes in – a figure of around £20m is said to be Leeds’ asking price and Tottenham are poised to test that, if you trust the rumour mill.
My view as a fan of Leeds United and as an admirer of both players, is that I would feel let down by the club if Phillips were to go, but as I previously stated I doubt that will happen. I would have no issue, however, with anything approaching £20m for Clarke.
Clarke isn’t likely to be in the starting XI a great deal next season and that money would be more than enough to bring in a replacement with proven quality – Helder Costa from Wolves, for example, who has been strongly linked with a move to Leeds but money has been a stumbling block so far.
The difference is, Phillips is the finished article, as is Costa who played a vital role in Wolves’ Championship winning campaign in 2017/18. Leeds need ready-made quality more than potential right now.
It’s not necessarily an opinion that all Leeds fans will share, but the harsh reality is that it’ll be almost impossible to improve the squad without a sale like this.
I’d also suggest that, although they’ll be losing one their best prospects, the academy has proven time and again that it’s very good and regularly produces players of similar quality to Clarke. Another one could just be round the corner.
Knowing Leeds though, we’ll probably cash in on him too.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below!