Since Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani took over at Leeds United, there have been wholesale changes that have helped spark belief in the Elland Road faithful once again. Along with repurchasing the iconic stadium, Massimo Cellino’s successor has appointed an ambitious young manager in Thomas Christiansen and provided ample funds in the transfer window for the Leeds boss to strengthen the squad. The Whites may now have what it takes to clinch one of the automatic promotion spots and make their long-awaited return to the Premier League.
United have signed 12 players this summer, and although they let last season’s top scorer Chris Wood go, along with Kyle Bartley, Rob Green, and Liam Bridcutt, the new manager looks to have much greater depth at his disposal with more varied options. Most of the new additions at Elland Road were unknown to fans before they joined, but after watching a few performances, it is clear that some of them have the potential to become major stars in the future.
This long-term planning is something that Radrizzani and new director of football Victor Orta should be lauded for. Instead of seeking players in the inflated English market, the board opted to look for untapped potential across Europe. The two main additions that have really shone so far are Ezgjan Alioski and Samuel Saiz, who were purchased from FC Lugano and Huesca respectively. The new signings have significantly improved the Leeds attack,and already have six goals and three assists between them in all competitions. Some supporters are now suggesting that if the Whites fail to win promotion this season, big clubs will try to poach these star players next summer.
But if Leeds do make a return to the top flight, having quality attackers like this will significantly boost their chances of staying up. The English pinnacle division is notoriously hard for newly promoted teams, as is underlined by last season’s second tier runners up Brighton’s slow start to life at the top. The Seagulls only managed to pick up a solitary point from their first three games, and during the international break were at 10/11 in the Premier League betting to be relegated by the end of the campaign.
There is certainly something to be said for scouting shrewd additions from abroad. This was highlighted by Leicester City, who brought in Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante for around £6 million combined. The two midfielders proved invaluable to the Foxes miraculous title win in the 2015-16 season. Christiansen will certainly be hoping that he too has a few undiscovered diamonds in his ranks.
Of course, it is too soon to say who the standout performers in the Championship will be, but the early signs at Leeds are more than encouraging. Leeds were undefeated in the league and cup going into the international break, which led Christiansen to win a nomination for manager of the month in August. There is a sense at Elland Road now that Leeds’ long exile from the top flight could soon come to an end.