Leeds United embarked on something of a transfer whirlwind this summer with nine new signings being brought into the club and several others departing.
The Whites, now with Jesse Marsch at the helm, invested to the tune of around £99m, with Luis Sinisterra, Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson all arriving for fees of £20m-plus. Those investments, though, were underpinned by their outgoings with the sales of Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha financing their new arrivals.
Indeed, the decision to offload Phillips looks a shrewd one with hindsight. The homegrown midfielder was a huge crowd favourite at Leeds having come through the ranks to earn England recognition. Indeed, he takes his place in this England XI forged in the Football League.
However, with two years left on his deal, Leeds knew the time to sell him was creeping upon them. And with Phillips’ missing 16 Premier League games last season and seven the season before, the midfielder is no stranger to the treatment table.
And following his £42m move to the Etihad, Phillips has only managed 14 minutes of action so far. Furthermore, he faces another lengthy spell on the sidelines with reports indicating he is facing shoulder surgery.
In his place, Leeds have reverted from the 4-1-4-1 formation often preferred under Marcelo Bielsa to a 4-2-3-1 under Marsch. And in Phillips’ absence, the American has opted to pair Marc Roca with Adams as a midfield unit.
The duo have both caught the eye too, with Leeds making a solid start to the new season. But where do the pair rank among all nine of Leeds United’s new arrivals.
Assessing their performances in a Leeds shirt to date, together with the transfer fee paid and the prospect of what is to come, TEAMtalk has ranked all nine of their new additions, counting down from worst to best.
Ranking all nine Leeds summer signings
9. Joel Robles
Signed as goalkeeping cover, the former Everton and Wigan man arrived as a free-transfer back-up for Illan Meslier and Krisoffer Klaesson. He’s been on the bench once but is yet to feature. But he can pass on his wisdom and experience to Meslier and a club always needs a third option should injuries or suspensions take hold.
8. Rasmus Kristensen
The Denmark full-back was signed in a £9.7m deal from RB Salzburg having absolutely dominated the Austrian Bundesliga. Indeed, he scored 10 times and weighed in with eight assists for Salzburg last season alone.
However, the step-up in class has yet to see Kristensen hit top form. He was guilty of a mistake just six minutes into his debut in allowing Wolves to score.
And the adjustment period has also seen him struggle get to grips with life in England so far.
But that’s exactly it: an adjustment period. There’s no reason to think why Kristensen won’t come good eventually. The player himself has spoken of his need to put things right and having named the one aspect of how playing in England has surprised.
7. Darko Gyabi
Just because he’s seventh on this list, don’t be fooled into thinking we’re rating this as a disappointing signing. Gybai comes to Elland Road with a plenty of talent and a growing reputation in the game.
The central midfielder cost Leeds a fee of just over £5m, the 18-year-old moving to Elland Road on the same day Phillips moved to City. Victor Orta was adamant that Leeds needed Gyabi to move the other way as part of any deal for the England man.
And if he fulfils his potential, this may yet prove a brilliant piece of business. As it stands, Gyabi is yet to make his professional debut for Leeds. However, it surely won’t be long before the opportunity presents itself further down the line. Marsch, for one, is hugely excited about his potential.
6. Wilfried Gnonto
If you’re playing and winning caps for the senior Italy squad at the age of 18 then you are special. And with four caps to his name, Leeds appear to have signed themselves a striker of real pedigree and talent.
All Leeds eyes will be on Milan on Friday night to see whether he might feature against England in the Nations League.
The player has managed just one Under-21 outing so far to his name – and he looked a handful and very energetic as a strong Leeds side put Southampton to the sword.
However, while Gnoto may come good in time – with Noel Whelan labelling him the bargain of the season – there is a feeling that Gnonto may be made to wait for his chance.
He was initially earmarked by the club as a January 2023 signing. However, the failure to land first Cody Gakpo and then Bamba Dieng on deadline day, forced Leeds to push forward that signing. As such, there was a feeling that his capture was made to not just give them a little more cover, but also one to appease the fans.
In the long run, this may prove a very astute signing for Leeds, especially given the initially £4.05m fee they have paid.
5. Brenden Aaronson
The USA star signed for Leeds just a matter of days after their Premier League survival was confirmed. Costing a fee of around £25m from RB Salzburg, the 21-year-old instantly endeared himself to Leeds fans on his debut against Wolves. Scoring what looked like the winner, the strike was later – and harshly – credited as a Rayan Ait-Nouri own goal.
However, he was off the mark against Chelsea – and in quite the fashion. He did so by hurriedly closing down Edouard Mendy, robbing him of the ball and tapping in with a no-look finish.
With poster boy good looks and a battery that can see him outrun most opponents, Aaronson looks a really astute signing.
He’s also the type of player they have been lacking for so long. A midfielder who has that eye for a pass and offers forward thrust. Indeed, we’re thinking Aaronson will emerge as a player of real quality over the next few years.
The only doubt perhaps remains over his physique and he did struggle to assert himself during recent games against Brentford and Brighton.
4. Tyler Adams
USA, USA! With Marsch as coach, and Aaronson and Adams signing up (not to mention Jack Harrison’s MLS ties too) it’s easy to see why Leeds United (States) are the popular picks in America right now.
And as good as Aaronson has been, it is Adams who has quietly and effectively gone about his business.
Yet he’s the type of player Leeds fans love. Someone who can get stuck into a tackle, keep the play ticking over and a player you want on your side in the trenches. Adams is that and more.
Yet Adams came to Leeds being billed as Phillips’ replacement. That’s unfair given, stylistically, he’s a different type of holding midfielder to the England man.
Still, he’s made a fantastic start to life at Leeds and looks right at home in Marsch’s midfield.
3. Sonny Perkins
Mark this one under hugely exciting potential. Perkins moved to Leeds for a fee to be determined by a tribunal. Having reached the end of his scholarship at West Ham, he opted to move north to Leeds and sign pro forms with them.
And his form so far for their Under-21s has been really eye-catching.
Having scored six goals already at that level, hopes are high that Perkins can soon make his mark on the first team. And the player proved he’s capable of scoring at any level by marking his England U-19s debut with a goal on Wednesday night.
Leeds are often short of options up front, meaning Perkins’ chance for the Whites could come his way sooner rather than later…..
2. Marc Roca
For £10.2m, Roca looks an absolute steal for Leeds United. Sat on Bayern Munich’s bench, his career was in danger of stalling at the Allianz Arena.
But he looks out to prove a point at Leeds and has started in the best possible fashion. Blessed with a fantastic range of passing, a will to get stuck in and an excellent engine, Roca has already made a mockery of the fee Leeds have paid to bring him to Elland Road.
He’s arguably proved the most consistent of their summer signings too. And he already has a goal to his name, scoring in the loss at Brentford.
Alongside Tyler Adams, he looks like the new heartbeat of this Leeds side. But he takes a higher place on this list than Adams purely for the fact he cost half the fee.
1. Luis Sinisterra
With Raphinha making clear his wish to leave, Leeds were under pressure to find a replacement of similar qualities.
And when the club eventually plumped for Sinisterra, there were some doubters over the Colombian’s abilities.
However, three goals in just 242 minutes – all from outside the box and all beauties (!) – have already silenced any fears. In these early days, that accounts to a goal every 80.6 minutes of action.
We’re not for one minute suggesting Sini can keep those standards up. But he looks a huge talent and a player that no defender would relish facing. Quick, pacy and skilled with both feet, he’s a joy to watch. And it’s little surprise he scored 23 goals in 49 appearances for Feyenoord.
🇨🇴 Luis Sinisterra with his 2nd Premier League goal for Leeds. Beautiful touch around the last defender and a wonderful, composed finish. He’s showing huge quality ⚽️🪄 so far. Big response after getting a little unlucky on the Penalty call for his challenge from VAR. pic.twitter.com/VfFVSaO7rv
— Gabriel (@GespinaVelosa) September 3, 2022
The £22.5m fee Leeds paid was a record fee received for the Dutch club – and they are seemingly happy to have let him make that move.
And it seems his efforts at Leeds have already brought him to the attention of Milan.
Tied to a five-year deal, Leeds can look forward to seeing much more of the 23-year-old at Elland Road. But don’t be surprised if by 2025, he’s the next player to depart Leeds for a massive fee.