The sad inevitability of the changing of the guard at Elland Road
27 Feb 2021 10:38 am, by YorkshireSquare
If there is one myth that Marcelo Bielsa has busted in his time at Leeds United it is that you do not need to spend fortunes in the transfer market, a good coach can improve players, take them to the next level. He proved that by taking a mid-tabled Championship side to Football League Champions within two seasons and turning ‘League One’ Liam Cooper into a player who looks comfortable in the Premier League. But there was only so far he would be able to take the squad he inherited from Paul Heckingbottom, only so high in the Premier League those players could aim.
Last summer that mean evolution rather than revolution for Leeds United. Four key first team signings complimented by a spattering of promising young players for the Under 23s, potential starts of the future including Sam Greenwood, Crysencio Summerville and Cody Drameh. The first team singings were proved quality, two international defenders, Spain’s number nine and the standout arrogant magnificence of Raphinha. There is no doubting the new boys were a step above those already at the club and it signalled Vicrot Orta and Andrea Radrizzani’s ambition.
Summer also saw the first step in the dismantling of the Championship winning squad as Barry Douglas departed for Blackburn. Douglas may not have had the impact on the pitch he would have hoped, but he was an integral part of the squad that achieved promotion back to the premier league and Victor Orta made that clear in an emotional open letter to the left back.
Dear Barry, You are the first permanent member of our promotion winning side to leave us and therefore I felt I should write this open letter to express my thanks, but also to ensure the supporters know just how big your impact has been.
You are clearly a top player and anyone who understands the game can see your quality. Unfortunately things have just not fallen for you in the way they should have done during your time at Leeds United, which can happen in football.
This summer as Leeds look to build on a mid-table finish they will look to strengthen again and that will probably mean saying goodbye to more of the old guard who were integral to Leeds regaining their place in the top-flight of English football. With the arrival of Raphinha and Rodrigo opportunities have been limited for the talismanic Pablo Hernandez. For at least two years he was the only bright spark in an otherwise underwhelming Leeds United side before becoming the creative genius in Bielsa’s Championship challenging side. His goal against Swansea, as well as the man himself will go down in Leeds United folklore and history.
But with chances limited for Pablo and an interest in returning to Castellón to play out the remainder of his career at the club he part owns, it could be adios to El Magico this summer. It will be sad to see Pablo go, a poignant moment, a changing of the guard as Leeds look to Premier League and European success in the future. Others are likely to depart Elland Road too with Football Insider reporting that Ezgjan Alioski has instructed his agent to start finding him a new club ahead of the summer. The versatile 29 year old is out of contract at the end of the season and talks over an extension have not yet resulted in an agreement.
The squad will have to be improved year on year if Radrizzani is to realise his ambition and it is sad but inevitable that many of the squad that god Leeds to this point will move on. They will however always be a part of this clubs history and have a very special place in the hearts of the fans.