Marcelo Bielsa is a miracle worker, taking practically the same squad who finished thirteenth in the Championship up to third this season. But there are reasons he had to mount this season challenge with basically the same players. Firstly Andrea Radrizzani has stated his desire and need to run Leeds United on a self-sustaining, sell to buy basis. Secondly the players we have brought in have not always been better than what we have already had. But if we are to mount a successful challenge for promotion next season does Radrizzani and Orta’s transfer strategy need to change?
It’s a policy fans find frustrating, having to sell your best assets before reinvesting, up and coming star Ronaldo Vieira departing last season was a downer but at least Radrizzani has reinvested unlike previous owners. But when you sell to buy you need to make sure the money is reinvested wisely and that has not always been the case at Leeds United in recent seasons. For the odd good deal that Victor Orta has done he has had a fair number of misses too.
In his first season we cast the net wide and recruited cheaply from overseas. Cibicki was highly rated and a lot of clubs had been watching him, we saw he had talent in his brief appearances for us lacked the physicality required for the Championship. We are lumbered with the mistakes of the past; Pawel Cibicki, Jay-Roy Grot, Paudie O'Connor, Hadi Sacko, Laurens De Bock, Yosuke Ideguchi, Ouasim Bouy, Vurnon Anita, Eunan O'Kane and Oliver Sarkic all returning from loan deals with little chance of breaking into the first team next season. At least we may make some money on Caleb Ekuban.
Last summer there was a change of tack, we signed players, for more money that seemed less of a gamble in Barry Douglas and Patrick Bamford, proven Championship players. But were they better than anyone we already had and are they worth what we paid for them? Looking overseas for unpolished diamonds or buying proven Championship players are both strategies that have their risks, some will pay off, others won’t.
It's all about balance, some players have proved their worth to the team and are worth more than we paid for them. Ezgjan Alioski a snip at £2.25m has run himself up to a value of over £3.5m. Mateusz Klich was another who could have been wasted money, out of favour in his first season he has been a revelation under Bielsa and increased his worth in the process. All it takes is something to click into place or the right coach and a player that seemed a waste of money is suddenly a good signing and Bielsa is the best man to get the best out or Ortas signings.
We are now preparing for another promotion push next season but you can’t help think with more investment in January we would be preparing for a season in the Premier League Now. The platform is there, Marcelo Bielsa has built it, but we need players better than we already have to push on. A striker, a central defender and a winger are all targets which will be on the wish list. We have assets to cash in on including Saiz, Jansson and Bamford (The prized young assets must be kept) but we must buy quality proven players to progress and if that means taking the gamble and spending more than we bring in then so be it.
Marcelo Bielsa has been very understanding and patient, for all his history or walking out on teams and his ‘El Loco’ nickname he has been calm, considered and thoughtful at Leeds. But he will need assurances he will be backed if he is to stay. In his second season at Bilbao he was extremely frustrated when Javi Martinez was allowed to leave. At Marseille they signed players he didn’t really want, failed to sign players he identified as targets and sold a player against his wishes as a result he walked out after the first game of the 2015 season.
Bielsa is an honourable man, if Radrizzani makes promises in line with Bielsa’s expectations and keeps them Bielsa will stay and see this project through. They key for this summer is to keep Bielsa and the key to keeping Bielsa is bringing in players "better than we already have" and retaining our crown jewels. This is not a call to go crazy, but with Leeds’ £8.9m loss in 2015/16 out of the 3 year rolling FFP cycle next season and some of the highest revenues in the Championship it should provide a bit of freedom to bring in a couple of quality additions.
We need to be going for the best players available; a proven goal scorer, and experienced leader. If we push the boat out on a couple of key players this summer together with our incredible youth setup and Bielsa’s ability to get the best out of players we can be Champions next year.