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The days of thinking Luke Murphy arriving from Crewe Alexandra for a cool £1 million was a lot of money seem a lifetime ago. Now we are back in the Premier League Victor Orta and Andrea Radrizzani don’t blink before splashing out 12, 20, even £27 million on bringing in German and Spanish internationals. Even a couple of million quid on a player for the Under 23s feels like small change these days. But Leeds haven’t always had such deep pockets and there is a core to this team, a core that led this team to promotion and have already proved themselves in the Premier League in the first few games of the season. Five players who combined cost Leeds only a combined £5 million but have been worth their weight in gold to Marcelo Bielsa!
Stuart Dallas (£1.9m from Brentford in 2015)
Marcelo Bielsa’s Rolls Royce! Not many players could hold their heads up high after the play-off debacle against Derby County but Dallas was certainly one who could with two goals to his name. That performance came from the left back position but his form has continued into the new season with ‘Mr Versatile’ playing all over the pitch. Right back, wing back, central midfield, you name it the Northern Irishman has played there for both club and country. Always appreciated by his teammates, Dallas was named 'Players Player 0f The Year’ in his first season with Leeds.
Last season, when perhaps chances seemed limited for Dallas following the signings of Harrison and Costa he was Bielsa’s go to player. Injuries to Ayling, Foreshaw and Alioski saw Dallas every present last campaign, in a multitude of positions, and one of Leeds most consistence players. His level of performance has continued into the Premier League and he caught the eye with a magnificent performance against Sheffield United last weekend.
Luke Ayling (£870k from Bristol City in 2016)
Luke Ayling is a player who wears his heart on his sleeve and epitomises the spirit of the Leeds United side. He looked devastated, almost lost during his post-match interview after defeat to Nottingham Forest. The toll of having played well without getting the results, the pressure of not having scored first in a game since December and the knowledge that you’ve just put in your worst performance as a team all season all shown bare on the right backs face. Roll on a couple of games and it was a different story, the ecstasy and passion on Ayling as he struck home the only goal after sixteen minutes against Bristol City was in stark contrast.
That goal and that victory started a run of victories and clean sheets that ultimately lead to promotion. Ayling was not only the catalyst against Bristol but against Hull and Huddersfield too. Goals after five and three minutes in those games from Ayling ultimately lead to victories and Leeds United’s march back to the top of the Championship table. It is as though he is on a one-man mission to drag the team out of despair and into the Premiership. He has shown his versatility to Marcelo Bielsa this season too, playing in a back three as well as his usual right back and not looking one bit out of place in the Premier League.
Mateusz Klich (£1.7m from FC Twente in 2017)
Outside of Elland Road you very rarely hear praise for the man who was very unlucky to not be named fans player of the year for the past two seasons. A man who has made 86 consecutive league starts. A man who can be seen pressing the opposition goalie one minute and harassing the opposition striker the next. The coolest and calmest customer in the squad, he rarely panics, he doesn’t give in to the rashness some of his teammates have in the past. He is technically brilliant, he is able to create, he scores goals, makes tackles, reads the game brilliantly and is an example to everyone in terms of his professionalism, temperament and fitness.
He isn't our Captain but he shows leadership in how he is on the pitch and off it. Eighty six consecutive starts as a central midfielder is impressive in any side, in this one that demands so much physically and mentally it’s a near miracle. Almost stupidly cast aside he told the Elland Road board two years ago just before they sent him back to Holland that they were making a mistake and he would prove it. He certainly has done that and even if he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves outside of Elland Road we all know how key he has been and I'm sure Marcelo Bielsa knows that too.
Liam Cooper (£750k from Chesterfield in 2014)
League One Liam as some disparagingly called him has proved his doubters wrong and grown in stature and confidence since his signing from Chesterfield for just £750k in 2014. With 200 appearance under his belt now, he has been the heart of the Leeds United defence for the past three years, a defence that last season was one of the best in Europe. Whilst Jansson and White may have taken the headlines, Cooper has been a consistent and reassuring presence at the back, his early mistakes but well and truly behind him. His performances over the past two season have been so good he caught the eye of Scotland manager Steve Clarke who handed him his international debut back in September 2019.
Coopers leadership skills were recognised early on by Neil Redfearn who described him as a 'natural leader' but the armband was taken off him by Uwe Rosler and he found his chances limited under Garry Monk who preferred Pontus Jansson and Kyle Bartley in the centre of defence. Under Thomas Christiansen his role as captain was reinstated and his position in the side regained and he has remained a key par of Marcelo Bielsa’s team, leading his boyhood club to the Championship title, fulfilling a childhood dream in the process.
Pablo Hernández (Free from Al-Arabi in 2017)
On his day Pablo Hernández stood head and shoulders above every other player in the Championship and still has plenty to offer on his return to the Premier League. He has been Leeds United’s talisman over the past few seasons, even when every other player is having an off-day Pablo is there to pull something special out of the bag, to create a chance out of nothing, to score a wonder goal. Wherever Pablo plays his influence on the team is clear, Leeds just aren’t as creative without him on the pitch. Consigned to obscurity playing for Al-Arabi in the Qatar Stars League, Garry Monk brought Pablo back to Hernandez and he has been a revelation for Leeds United ever since.
Hernández may be a different player to the one who, in his prime was one of the crown jewels of The Mestalla for Valencia. But what Pablo has lost in terms of pace he has more than made up for in his mind. He has the ability to create chances out of nothing, to unlock defences and make passes before anyone else has even realised they are on. Pablo is probably the best player to grace the Elland Road turf since we were relegated and as much as the past two years have been the ‘Marcelo Bielsa Revolution’ it’s hard to see how that revolution could have been so successful without the magician that is Pablo Hernandez.
I remember Bristol City fans were very unhappy when we signed Ayling.
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Absolute bargains who have repaid their transfer fees many times over.
Pablo's still worth nothing then ....couple of quid at least I'd sayByebyegeegee wrote:Worth well more than 10 times what we paid for them at today’s prices
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All deemed average players before Bielsa arrived.
Come play for Bielsa, put in the work, retire at 32 secure in the knowledge that your great great grandchildren will never have to worry about money.
Hard to say. I looked at Transfermarkt and apparently Klich is valued at 3.08mill which I find vastly undervalued. Not sure what their "market value" really means.
I'd definitely value Klich at 15mill given current English transfer fees. Hard to go higher just because he's amazing in our system, but it is a very special system, unlike other teams; also his age, at 30 he is already at his peak.
But it doesn't matter, he's going nowhere as he's now Leeds through and through
Agreed. Intelligent footballer who is perfect to continue his career coaching as a Bielsa disciple.
I believe Pablo has still a lot to offer this season