Leeds United prepare for the 2021/22 Premier League campaign with their final pre-season friendly this weekend.
A recently-arranged fixture pits the Whites against Europa League champions Villarreal and former Arsenal head coach Unai Emery.
The match will signal one week until Leeds face off versus Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Premier League’s Saturday lunchtime kick-off on the opening weekend.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side’s preparations have been thrown into disarray by Copa America, the European Championships and England’s run to the final of the latter competition.
He has suggested the Whites boast an advantage over the Red Devils having had the vast majority of their squad at Thorp Arch for a full pre-season.
That said, Solskjaer has been consoled by £114 million of transfer expenditure on Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, among others.
Leeds on the other hand have spent roughly £25 million combined on Junior Firpo, a permanent deal for Jack Harrison and Kristoffer Klaesson.
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LeedsLive assesses the state of play on transfer matters at Elland Road ahead of the new season.
As referenced above, Leeds have added three players to the first-team squad, all aged 25-or-under in Harrison, Junior and Klaesson.
The £25 million outlay represents a similar sum paid for club record buy Rodrigo last summer, and as a trio doesn’t come close to the near-£100 million expenditure of this time last year.
There is good reason for the drop-off in spending however, in that Leeds’ squad is better prepared for a Premier League campaign than the one which earned promotion twelve months ago.
The club go into 2021/22 with a squad which, at the very least, is on par with the one which finished 2020/21 so strongly.
That doesn’t mean to say Leeds are done in the transfer market, though.
A central midfielder has remained a priority throughout the window, and a failed loan move to bring in Conor Gallagher exemplifies that.
West Bromwich Albion’s Okay Yokuslu (left) and Leeds United’s Pablo Hernandez battle for the ball: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire.
Okay Yokuslu and Lewis O’Brien are two players Leeds are said to have held an interest in, with Director of Football Victor Orta saying as much about the former in an interview with a Spanish radio station last month.
There has also been tentative talk of Leeds adding another winger, but the dominance over the wide areas currently held by Jack Harrison and Raphinha means that move will likely rely on one of the understudies moving on.
Negotiating a loan for Ian Poveda or Helder Costa could give rise to Leeds bringing in another wide player late in the window as they did with Raphinha.
Jack Harrison [left], Junior Firpo [middle] and Kristoffer Klaesson [right] sign permanent deals with Leeds United
(Image: Leeds United)
Given Leeds have now received their first £120 million tranche of Premier League television revenue and will receive further broadcast income this coming season, there is certainly money to spend if any Raphinha-type opportunities were to arise.
What has Victor Orta said?
Victor Orta had intended for all Leeds’ transfer business to be conducted by the beginning of pre-season, but such is the nature of multi-million pound moves, that is rarely the case for any club.
Kiko Casilla’s season-long loan exit meant Orta was required to move for a back-up goalkeeper after his self-imposed, soft deadline.
Lewis Bate signs for Leeds United alongside Victor Orta
Speaking to the Phil Hay Show in May, Orta said this about the state of the transfer market.
“It’s a strange market, I think obviously I want all the new players to start pre-season,” he said.
“I still have a long month of June and obviously I hope that the month of June we can finish the job.
“We can put our effort [in] but it is not always just our side. Perhaps from our side, it is all done but there are a lot of people involved and it is out of our control,” he finished.
The Spaniard has been hard at work, fulfilling Marcelo Bielsa’s squad-building desires this summer and to his credit, had deals for Jack Harrison and Junior Firpo tied up right at the beginning of pre-season.
Marcelo Bielsa is unlikely to allow any of his first-team squad to leave with just a matter of days before the opening game of the season.
Although, he will be far less reluctant to let select U23 players depart on loan, or permanently.
Five Leeds youngsters are yet to be seen in pre-season in any capacity and are understood to be training separately.
Niall Huggins has been subject of interest from Blackburn Rovers, while Bobby Kamwa and Jordan Stevens have been allowed to participate in unsuccessful trials with Rotherham United and Harrogate Town respectively.
Robbie Gotts and Bryce Hosannah also appear on the periphery of Bielsa’s plans – as Beren Cross writes here.
Gjanni Alioski, Gaetano Berardi, Pablo Hernandez, Barry Douglas and Oliver Casey have all left on permanent deals.
Meanwhile, Ryan Edmondson, Alfie McCalmont, Mateusz Bogusz, Kiko Casilla and Leif Davis will all spend 2021/22 out on loan across Europe.