Inside Leeds United: Whites playing catch-up after early big-money transfers

Jamal Blackman is one of only two new faces at Elland Road
Jamal Blackman is one of only two new faces at Elland Road

Leeds United will take in their fifth and penultimate pre-season friendly at Guiseley this evening, yet two forthcoming dates are far more pressing.

There are just 10 days until the Whites’ Championship opener against Stoke with the summer transfer window then slamming shut at 5pm two weeks today.

There have been varying degrees of activity from clubs in the division since the window opened on Thursday, May 17.

Eleven weeks, but still a distinct lack of signings at Elland Road, with their opening-day opponents Stoke at the other end of the spectrum and clearly setting the bar for activity this summer.

The Potters had quietly been ticking along as a Premiership side since 2009 after finishing second in the Championship season of 2007/08 behind champions West Brom, another side who are back in the second tier this term.

Swansea City complete the triumvirate of relegated clubs heading for life back in the Championship with the Swans, Baggies and Stoke all now armed with the much-discussed parachute payments handed out by the Premier League to ensure relegated clubs can cope in the lower divisions.

Demoted teams receive around £40m in their first season following the drop, reduced to around £35m in year two and around £15m in the third and final year.

But Stoke in particular have made their intentions clear ahead of the new campaign having made big money moves to secure the services of Tom Ince, James McClean, Oghenekaro Etebo and Adam Federici, as well as signing Benik Afobe on loan.

Furthermore, Gary Rowett’s side continue to be linked with further swoops.

The Staffordshire club have admittedly sold Xherdan Shaqiri to Liverpool for £13.5m with Ramadan Sobhi also switching to Huddersfield Town for around £5.7m.

Marc Muniesa has left for Girona for around £4.5m while goalkeeper Lee Grant has joined Manchester United for £1.5m with Jack Butland still remaining the club’s number one shot-stopper.

Yet the recruitment of the impressive quintet has cost nearly £35m, with Afobe set to cost £12m when joining permanently after his initial six-month loan deal in January and with Ince also priced at £10m.

Including the eventual deal to sign Afobe, the Potters have received just over £25m from transfer sales this summer but spent considerably more at around £33.35m.

Just as important has been the club’s ability to so far hold on to the likes of Butland, Joe Allen, Saido Berahino, Ryan Shawcross, Darren Fletcher and Senegal World Cup striker Mame Biram Diouf.

Even allowing for the dominance of Wolves last term and the deeply impressive squads of Newcastle United and Brighton in the season before, the Stoke squad that Leeds come up against on the first day of 2018/19 could be one of the best ever for the level.

The Potters are predictably favourites to win the division but the other obvious contenders for promotion have been busy themselves with United knowing all too well about West Brom’s capture of Whites-target Kyle Bartley from Swansea City for £4m.

Leeds have also been frustrated in their bids to land fellow key targets Matej Vydra, Abel Hernandez and Angus Gunn – the Manchester City goalkeeper who United wanted on loan who instead moved to Southampton for £13.5m.

Leeds were prepared to pay around £12m to land Vydra from Derby but the striker’s wage demands have proved the stumbling block.

West Brom, meanwhile, have also signed goalkeeper Sam Johnstone from Manchester United for £6.5m plus Jonathan Bond from Reading on a free transfer but in addition to the departure of McClean, Jonny Evans was sold to Leicester City for £3.5 with Ben Foster also leaving for Watford for around £4m.

Middlesbrough, who have so far held on to star man Adama Traore, are third favourites to win the Championship next term and the Riversiders have recruited Aden Flint from Bristol City for £7m plus Paddy McNair from Sunderland for £5m.

Fabio – who left for Nantes for around £2m – and Antonio Barragán – who departed for Real Betis for half that fee – have been the main departures.

But it is another of last season’s Championship sides that have arguably made the biggest waves in the transfer market after Stoke with midfielder João Carvalho joining Nottingham Forest from Benfica for £13.2m.

In addition to also landing Michael Dawson from Hull City on a free transfer and Jack Robinson from QPR, Forest have also signed Lewis Grabban from Bournemouth for around £6m, Hillal Soudani from Dinamo Zagreb for around £3m, Tobias Pereira Figueiredo from Sporting for around £2m and Costel Pantilimon from Watford for around £1.5m.

Forest’s net spend exceeds even Stoke’s with Eric Lichaj to Hull City for around £400,000 and Armand Traore to Çaykur Rizespor for a small undisclosed fee being the main departures.

Of the other would-be contenders, an Aston Villa side threatened by a financial meltdown have yet to make a signing with John Terry clearly the highest profile departure.

Swansea have lost the services of Łukasz Fabiański to West Ham for around £7m in addition to the likes of Bartley and Roque Mesa leaving, while only adding in Joel Asoro from Sunderland for around £2m plus Yan Dhanda from Liverpool and Jordi Govea from Real Madrid on free transfers.

Andreas Weimann has been the main departure from Frank Lampard’s Derby County after his £2m switch to Bristol City, but the Rams agreed a fee with Peterborough United for Jack Marriott yesterday, believed to be £2.5m rising to double that.

The Rams have also loaned in both Mason Mount from Chelsea and Harry Wilson from Liverpool as well as signing Florian Jozefzoon from Brentford for around £2.75m – who emerged as another target of United’s.

So far, Chelsea loanees Lewis Baker and Jamal Blackman are the only men in through the door at Leeds and United are known to be on the look out for a centre forward, a midfielder, a winger and a left-back.

Barry Douglas, a star performer for Wolves last season, might well be that left-back with reports emerging of the Molineux side accepting a bid yesterday.

A step in the right direction, but several more are needed and quickly before 5pm on August 9.