Leeds United

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Leeds Utd transfers: £28m Orta mistake looms large as surprise double loan return beckons

Diego Llorente and Rasmus Kristensen

Leeds have many returning loan players to deal with including two coming back from the same club

Leeds United loanees Diego Llorente and Rasmus Kristensen could reportedly return on loan to Roma after the Championship side’s failed bid to reach the Premier League.

Like many of Leeds‘ Premier League signings, defenders Llorente and Kristensen underwhelmed during their stints at Elland Road.

While the former helped keep the Whites in the English top-flight in 2021/22, the latter struggled as they dropped into the Championship with a 19th-place finish last year.

Centre-back Llorente, who joined Leeds from Real Sociedad for £18m in September 2020, signed for Roma on a loan deal until the end of the season in late January 2023, before spending 2023/24 at I Giallorossi.

Right-back Kristensen, who swapped Red Bull Salzburg for the Yorkshire outfit in 2022 for a fee in the region of £10m, followed the Spaniard out to Stadio Olimpico last summer – but he has proven to not be as effective out in Serie A.

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Kristensen, whose deal at Elland Road runs until 2027, was left out of Roma’s Europa League squad list this season and he started just 19 times in Serie A. Llorente, on the other hand, made 35 starts in all competitions.

Reports previously suggested Roma had an obligation to buy Llorente, whose Leeds contract expires in 2026, for just £4.25m at the end of the season, while others claim the 30-year-old joined on loan – with no strings attached.

Leeds exiles set for Roma return

Now, Corriere dello Sport states Leeds’ failure to secure an immediate return to the Premier League, following their 1-0 Championship play-off final loss to Southampton on Sunday, has ‘opened the door’ to Roma extending their loan deals.

Daniele De Rossi’s side are said not to be ‘desperate’ to keep Kristensen and Llorente, but the manager would ‘favour’ retaining the Spain international.

This comes at a time where Leeds are reportedly going to have sell £150m worth of players this summer, with the club still owing £190m in transfer instalments on player purchases.

Although £73.6m of that is due before the end of next month, it seems Leeds will have to look elsewhere to make money from player exits.

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The combined £28m outlay on Llorente and Kristensen, which happened under the watch of former Director of Football Victor Orta, is looking more and more misguided with every week that passes.

From a Leeds standpoint, these two, arguably, will not be greatly missed. Academy product Archie Gray has been a much-needed improvement at right-back, despite only turning 18 this year and being a midfielder by trade.

And the likes of Tottenham loanee Joe Rodon and Welsh international teammate Ethan Ampadu, who was initially signed as a defensive midfielder from Chelsea last summer before moving back into defence following Pascal Struijk’s injury, have added more solidity to Leeds’ backline.

Whether they can retain Rodon’s services next season remains to be seen, with Spurs likely to want £15m for the 6ft 4in centre-back.

Regardless of that, Llorente and Kristensen have probably played their last games for Leeds.

How have Leeds outcasts done at Roma?

By Roma expert Samuel Bannister

When Roma took Llorente in January 2023 it was a bit of a surprise, but he seemed to gain a new lease of life in Italy. Since Roma couldn’t afford Leeds’ asking price for him after, they were glad when they were able to take him on loan again.

Llorente was one of Roma’s more important players in his second season in Serie A, even if he wasn’t always a starter. Their most senior defender Chris Smalling missed most of the season through injury, so Llorente stepped up as a bit of a quiet leader.

It came as a surprise to Giallorossi fans recently when some Italian reports suggested Roma wouldn’t be trying to keep the Spaniard, especially with Leeds’ demands now dropping.

But if they can renew Llorente’s loan again after all, it would likely be a simple decision for Daniele De Rossi’s decision makers to approve – and an equally frustrating one for Leeds, who extended Llorente’s contract shortly before he originally set sail for Italy.

The Kristensen case is a stranger one. He hasn’t performed well for Roma, but then again, none of their right-backs have this season. It seems more realistic that Leeds would have to look elsewhere to offload the Dane this summer.