With new owners at the helm and German boss Daniel Farke in the managerial hot seat, Leeds United currently find themselves navigating a critical transfer window and pre-season, looking to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Despite the club having several valuable assets to cash in on, Leeds’ previous critical mismanagement at board level reared its ugly head once more, with a number of first-team players leaving on loan thanks to relegation clauses in their contracts.
Robin Koch and Brenden Aaronson have joined Eintracht Frankfurt and Union Berlin respectively, with the former available to join the Bundesliga outfit permanently on a free transfer next summer. Max Wöber meanwhile remains locked in talks with fellow German side Borussia Mönchengladbach over a loan spell. José Mourinho has bolstered his AS Roma ranks with the season-long signings of Whites defensive duo Diego Llorente and Rasmus Kristensen, whilst Marc Roca made the move to La Liga’s Real Betis.
Whether these escape routes for the players can be categorised as arrogance or ineptitude from the Leeds board is up for debate, but Football Manager-like dealings like these have allowed €92m worth of talent, according to Transfermarkt, head out of the door without any fees being recouped. Less strain on the wage bill however paints a brighter picture, allowing the club the legroom they need to invest into the squad and rebuild for life back in the EFL.
Versatile Chelsea man Ethan Ampadu was the first signing of the Daniel Farke era in West Yorkshire, as Leeds parted with an initial £7m fee for the defensively-minded Welshman. Despite having three successive relegations on his CV in recent campaigns, early indications from the pre-season outing against AS Monaco suggest the 22-year-old will have an important role to play this season.
Used in a double pivot alongside teenager Archie Gray, Ampadu was able to show off his range of progressive passing, exploiting the Ligue 1 side’s approach with balls in behind to create openings for Luis Sinisterra and Georginio Rutter. The ability to be comfortable both in the midfield and back line could prove invaluable over the course of the 46-game Championship slog. Should the club be able to retain Tyler Adams’ services for the upcoming season, Leeds would have a combative duo of ball-winners; an essential aspect of Farke’s attacking philosophy.
USA international Adams and his Welsh counterpart have played together previously during Ampadu’s spell with RB Leipzig, albeit one in which the then-Chelsea loanee struggled for game time. As players continue to head for the Thorp Arch exit door, new faces are essential to bolster a squad light in different positions across the field. Joel Robles’ switch to the Saudi Pro League, coupled with Illan Meslier’s disastrous end to last season, makes the number one spot something to keep an eye on, although the arrival of goalkeeping coach Ed Wootten from Norwich City could help the young Frenchman recapture his previous form.
For the club’s second recruit, Leeds have signed Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow for £400,000. Whilst the 32-year-old has spent the past few years as a backup, he nevertheless impressed on loan after making the move to Hull City in January with five clean sheets in 12 appearances. Boasting 150 Championship and 52 Premier League appearances, the Englishman should prove valuable competition and push Meslier for the starting spot.
After different managers ignored fans’ pleas for Cody Drameh to be given a run at right-back, now is the time for the 21-year-old to establish himself in the position, coming off the back of a highly successful loan spell at Luton where he helped the Hatters to promotion. The departures of Robin Koch, Diego Llorente and Max Wöber leave the club with a lack of options at centre-half, with the club reportedly targeting Liverpool’s Nat Phillips to join Liam Cooper, Pascal Struijk and Charlie Cresswell in defence.
Since Charlie Taylor’s move to Burnley in 2017, a left back has been the priority for supporters in every transfer window and this summer remains no different. Junior Firpo is unlikely to remain at the club and long-term absentee Stuart Dallas remains sidelined. Former Leeds starlet Sam Byram is training with the club in a bid to find fitness following his departure from Norwich City, and whilst resigning the versatile full-back would offer depth, a top-quality addition remains a priority.
Despite Ethan Ampadu signing on the dotted line, the departures of Marc Roca, Adam Forshaw, Brenden Aaronson and Weston McKennie’s long-overdue return to Turin is likely to see youngsters Darko Gyabi and Archie Gray feature regularly in the first team squad this season. The signing of a more creative, attack-minded midfielder, think Mateusz Klich or Pablo Hernandez, would help complement the likes of Ampadu and Adams and suit Farke’s dynamic 4-2-3-1 system. PSG’s Édouard Michut, who spent last year on loan at Sunderland, is under consideration, reports suggest.
On the flanks, Leeds currently have an embarrassment of riches at this level. With Jack Harrison widely expected the leave the club, holding on to the likes of Luis Sinisterra and Italian star Wilfried Gnonto could be the difference as the Whites look to make an immediate return to the Premier League. Similarly to the clamour of signing a left-back, a number nine is often high on the wishlist for many connected to the club.
Joe Gelhardt and Georginio Rutter are two exciting prospects, although two that are far from the finished articles, and whilst Patrick Bamford continues his battles with fitness and form, replacing Rodrigo’s goals is a necessity. Swansea forward Joel Piroe, coming off the back of a 19-goal Championship season, remains a player linked with a move to West Yorkshire. Ownerships are defined by the success of the players they bring in on the field. With an exciting young core of talent already at Elland Road, adding the quality and Championship know-how should get the 49ers Enterprises et al. off to a flying start in England.
By: Jack Douglas / @JDouglasSport
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / James Williamson – AMA / Getty Images