It looks as though Raphinha’s two-year stay at Elland Road is all but over, with numerous different outlets reporting that the Brazilian is heading to Barcelona for a whopping £63m. That combined with the £45m the club recently received from Manchester City for academy graduate Kalvin Phillips comfortably represents a club-record in terms of transfer fees received in one transfer window. And although the club will be sad to see the former Stade Rennais man leave the club, the funds they are receiving in return for their superstar window are more than reasonable. Now, Jesse Marsch must look toward the future and strengthen further before the new Premier League campaign gets underway in a few weeks’ time.
The question that is currently on the lips of fans and pundits is; where should the funds be allocated? Leeds have already secured a like-for-like replacement for their Catalonia-bound star, namely Luis Sinisterra. The talented Colombian was in sensational form last season, leading a young Feyenoord side to the final of the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League. He bagged an impressive 23 goals and 14 assists in 49 appearances for the Dutch side as they finished last year’s Eredivise in third place, behind champions Ajax and PSV Eindhoven. And the best bit about the deal, if you’re a fan of the whites, is that the deal cost the club just £22.5m, meaning that there is over £40m remaining in the kitty from the Raphinha deal alone. But where should those additional funds be spent?
New striking options are essential
Numerous different injuries limited their only experienced striker, Patrick Bamford, to just nine appearances last term. As such, it was no surprise to see the club in the middle of a relegation dogfight, securing survival on the final day of the campaign away at nine-man Brentford courtesy of Jack Harrison’s 94th-minute winner. But staving off a drop to the Championship hasn’t papered over the cracks.
The injuries to Bamford were potentially sustained thanks to the huge amount of fixtures played throughout the English footballing calendar, and they meant that Daniel James — who usually operates from either flank — had to perform as a makeshift striker. He was supplemented on occasion by youngster Joe Gelhardt. Admittedly the 20-year-old has bags of potential, but with just 22 senior appearances under his belt for the club, he cannot be relied upon at the cut-throat level that is the Premier League.
And that is exactly why the club needs to bring in some new striking options, preferably more than just the one arrival. 20-year-old Paris Saint-Germain striker Arnaud Kalimuendo has been linked with the club in recent days. He’s coming off the back of a breakthrough season in France on loan at RC Lens, where he notched up 12 goals in 34 Ligue 1 appearances, leading his side to a seventh-placed finish, which is a 15-year best. But he too is hardly a proven commodity, and the Marsch may need to convince his owners to strengthen further, even if the Frenchman arrives.
Fixing that leaky defence
Leeds shipped a mammoth 79 goals last season, a total which was only beaten by Norwich City, who finished plumb-last in the league table some 16-points shy of safety. The number of goals United conceded last season was their joint-highest in Premier League history, only matched by the year they were relegated — 2003/04 — where they conceded the same amount. When you look at that stat, as well as their goal difference which was -37, it’s a wonder that Jesse Marsch managed to keep the club in the Premier League.
Both Diego Llorente and Robin Koch have international caps under their belt for Spain and Germany respectively, but they looked like liabilities at points last season. As did club captain Liam Cooper, who despite being a rock in the Championship, has proven that he isn’t up to the task at the top-flight level. If the club wishes to avoid another disastrous campaign, they must shore up that backline, before it’s too late.