Bielsa outlines remaining Leeds transfer plans due to ‘disappointment’ factor

Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds Utd manager

Marcelo Bielsa has suggested Leeds are unlikely to make any more signings this summer, in part to avoid the “disappointment” of bringing in players who are not up to the standard required.

Leeds impressed upon their return to the Premier League last season, finishing ninth. However, their second year back in the top flight under Bielsa will be more of a challenge. It did not start in ideal fashion, as they lost 5-1 to Manchester United. They have since faced questions over whether they need further reinforcements.

Last summer, Leeds showed ambition in the market by spending on the likes of Rodrigo, Diego Llorente, Robin Koch and Raphinha. However, this year, their only additions have been Junior Firpo and Kristoffer Klaesson.

Each move was out of necessity; Firpo replaced the released Ezgjan Alioski at left-back and Klaesson was chosen as the successor to departing backup goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.

Leeds still have areas that could require reinforcement, which have only been exposed further after their heavy opening defeat. For example, they continue to be linked with adding further competition in midfield and could consider another winger or a backup to striker Patrick Bamford.

But as the transfer deadline approaches at the end of the month, Bielsa has admitted any more incomings are unlikely, because it would cost a lot to usurp the quality they already have.

“It’s not probably anymore signings will be made,” Bielsa told a press conference, as transcribed by Leeds Live.

“I’m happy with the players I can count on. It’s the same group as last year with Firpo in for Alioski. Young players on the fringes have another year of experience.

“Of course, we have the option of a new player to come in. As long as the new player can challenge the existing option. New player has to compete with what we have. High cost to this.

“There’s disappointment if we bring players in below the standard. Have to find players who overcome the players we have, but at a low price. Low price means a high price.”

Marcelo Bielsa Leeds United manager

Asked if the lack of signings this summer signalled a compromise, Bielsa defended his club’s approach to spending.

“We absorbed last season with 18,” he said. “Some important injuries. [Gaetano] Berardi, Koch, Llorente, [Adam] Forshaw.

“With that nucleus the same players are there. Firpo in for Alioski. Klaesson for Casilla. [Luke] Ayling, Llorente, Pascal [Struijk], [Jamie] Shackleton, Koch. [Stuart] Dallas, [Mateusz] Klich, [Kalvin] Phillips, Tyler [Roberts], Rodrigo. Three wingers: Helder [Costa], [Jack] Harrison and Raphinha. Tyler and Patrick in attack. Possibly Forshaw. Some youngsters. Important contributions.

“Question of needing more players has two answers: yes we need more players better than those we have and we can buy. This club has invested. Can’t say otherwise.

“Second: same group big contribution last season allowed them into the top half. When you lose big game 5-1 generates uncertainty.”

Bielsa press conference includes player exit talk

Marcelo Bielsa during Leeds friendly against Ajax August 2021

Instead, Leeds will be focusing on some player exits before the end of the transfer window. One deal that looks likely to go through is the permanent exit of academy product Niall Huggins, for whom Sunderland are in talks.

“Nothing has happened we hadn’t looked at before,” Bielsa said when asked about Huggins. “These young players (Edmondson, Niall, Gotts, Stevens) part so the under-23s in previous seasons. They have a process of development.

“When they peak in this development, like with each of these named, they have to compete with a very small group chosen for the season. In this case: Ayling, Dallas and Shackleton play in his position. He hasn’t got the chances to overcome these players at the club.

“If I keep him at the club rather than aid his development, I hinder it. If the youngsters are not here, there comes a moment they need to look for higher competition than the 23s because progress would be stalled.

“All our expectation is they compete outside the club for a year and we find an evolution that invites them back into the fold. Without exception, every player out on loan I see every week because it’s my function, you grow a bond between these players, an affection. Alfie [McCalmont] and [Leif] Davis too.

“We desire it goes well for them and to bring them back. They made big efforts to be in the group and we accompanied them.”

Someone facing a more uncertain future at Leeds is Ian Poveda, who has reportedly fallen out with Bielsa and will be available for transfer.

The manager admitted Poveda’s situation is different to the other players he mentioned.

“Different with Poveda to Huggins,” he said. “Close passage through first team. Competes with the senior 18. Others competing with him in that position.”

One player who will not be leaving, Bielsa hopes, is star striker Bamford, who answered his critics last season. He has since been linked with a move to a top-seven side, but reports indicate he is close to signing a new contract instead.

According to Bielsa, Bamford is among the country’s finest forwards.

“Bamford very important. One of the best strikers English football has.”

But when asked about the new contract, he said: “I ignore these details.”

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