Leeds United have meant business on and off the pitch in their first season back in the Premier League.
Not only have they been putting up some impressive performances — they most recently held title contenders Manchester City to a 1-1 draw — but they also made serious investments in the squad during the transfer window.
The Whites spent over €100m during the summer — among the highest spenders in all of Europe — to provide manager Marcelo Bielsa the players he needs to keep them up this season.
SBOTOP takes a closer look at all of Leeds’ major signings and how they figure to impact the rest of their Premier League campaign.
Helder Costa, Jack Harrison and Illan Meslier
Leeds’ first order of business during the summer was to bring back three players that they had on loan last season — goalkeeper Illan Meslier, and wingers Helder Costa and Jack Harrison — and they succeeded.
They signed both Meslier (€6.50m from Lorient) and Costa (€17.70m from Wolves) to permanent deals, while Harrison — who had already spent the previous two seasons on loan from Manchester City — has returned for another loan spell.
Costa, 26, has been one of the team’s standout performers, producing a host of Premier League 2020 highlights during the early part of the season. He already has two goals in four games after scoring just four in 40 appearances in the Championship last year. Harrison, 23, has also contributed a goal and an assist in three appearances.
Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Meslier has been quite solid in goal. He had a particularly impressive outing in Leeds’ 1-0 win over Sheffield United, where he made some outstanding saves.
It might still be early in the season, but those three are looking like fine signings for Leeds and figure to be key contributors for them in the Premier League this season.
Rodrigo Moreno and Robin Koch
In late August, Leeds landed two more players in centre-forward Rodrigo from Valencia and centre-back Robin Koch from Freiburg.
The Whites signed Rodrigo for €30m, smashing their club transfer record. The Spanish striker isn’t all that prolific — he had 59 goals in 220 games for Valencia — but he is an intelligent and versatile player who can link up play, which made him a good fit for Leeds’ system.
Rodrigo has only made one start thus far with Patrick Bamford preferred as the lone striker. But the Spaniard had by far his best performance to date against Manchester City as Leeds defied the Premier League 2020 odds and held City to a draw. As he continues to get more familiar with Bielsa’s system, his best is yet to come.
The same could also be said of Koch, who has had perhaps the most difficult start to the season among Leeds new signings. The 24-year-old German conceded a penalty just a few minutes into his debut against Liverpool, and gave away another in their next game against Fulham.
Despite being a defender (and, at times, a defensive midfielder), Koch’s big strengths are more on offence; he is comfortable on the ball and is a fine passer. Leeds like to build up play from the back, which is why Koch is a good fit. But it’s clear that he must get better on the defensive side as the season goes on.
Diego Llorente and Raphinha
If Koch doesn’t show improvement, Diego Llorente will be in line to take his place in the starting XI. The Spanish centre-back cost Leeds €20m from Real Sociedad and arrived at the end of September.
Llorente is a similar type of centre-back to Koch in that he is a fine passer who can also play in defensive midfield. He’s also strong in the air and is prone to a few errors. He is yet to make his Leeds debut, so he must be sure to make a good first impression.
Leeds also wanted to strengthen more in midfield before the end of the window. They thought they’d sealed a move for Bayern Munich midfielder Michael Cuisance, but the move was called off after concerns about the German’s left foot emerged during the medical.
The Whites had a long-standing interest in Udinese’s Rodrigo de Paul, but they instead turned their attention to Rennes winger Raphinha, who arrived for €17m and became their last signing on deadline day.
The 23-year-old Brazilian had a solid lone season in Ligue 1, where he scored five goals and provided three assists. He is a persistent dribbler who likes to take defenders on and figures to provide some much-needed depth on the wings behind Costa and Harrison.
Leeds may have just returned to the Premier League, but their summer transfer activity is a clear signal of intent that they plan to stay. And thanks to a number of savvy new signings, Bielsa now has a much stronger squad that can help him achieve that goal.
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