Leeds United have been on a spending spree this summer transfer window, looking to improve upon a squad that placed 7th in the Championship last season and looking to get back to the Premier League.
The new Director of Football at Leeds, Victor Orta, had years of experience in Spain before coming to England to be the head of recruitment at Middlesbrough before being let go last season as Boro dropped out of the Premier League in its first season back in the top flight.
Agree. Seems foreign was all Orta/Karanka signed in the last 2 transfer windows at Boro. Didn't work out well.— Stuart Grant (@McClumsy84) June 20, 2017
At both Middlesbrough and now at Leeds, one of the criticisms he has faced is the lack of English or England-based talent that he has brought into the clubs under his direction. At Middlesbrough he brought in Ritchie de Laet, Julian de Sart, Victor Valdes, Brad Guzan, Antonio Barragan, Bernadrdo Espinosa, Gaston Ramirez, Adama Traore, Viktor Fischer, Fabio, Marten De Roon, Alvaro Negredo, Jordan Rhodes, Kike Sola, Calum Chambers, Patrick Bamford, Rudy Gestede, and Adlene Guedioura. Most of them had very little Premier League or English experience, and those that did, like Rudy Gestede or Jordan Rhodes, were expensive busts.
Rhodes, for example, cost Middlesbrough £10.12 million after he scored 21 goals in the league the season before for Blackburn but was only able to poke six goals home in 19 league games after a January transfer window move from Blackburn to Boro. After only six league appearances for Boro in the Premier League last season, he moved on loan to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, where he failed to regain his scoring touch, only scoring three times in 18 appearances for the Owls.
Rudy Gestede was brought in during the January transfer window last season in an attempt to get create more goals for the team, but his £6 million move was a total waste, as the player scored all of one goal for Boro as the team slid down the table into the relegation places.
The prices that other teams are currently paying for English and England-based talent is reaching the absurd. With the huge influx of TV money into the Premier League, other teams are asking ridiculous prices for players and getting it.
#BHAFC first day #EPL opponents #MCFC have spent more money on full backs this weekend than #BHAFC have spent in their 116 yr existence— PriceOfFootball (@KieranMaguire) July 23, 2017
Manchester City just spend more than £100 million on fullbacks, with the team shelling out £50 million on right back Kyle Walker. Now, is Walker one of the best right backs in England? Perhaps. But in the case of the £52 million that City spent on Benjamin Mendy, the left back is at least 23 years old and has a bright future ahead of him. Walker may have a few years ahead of him, but it is rare for players older than 30 to get better.
And for those keeping track at home, part of the reason that Orta was let go at Boro was the failure in the transfer market. So what does the club do this summer? Goes out and a spends a club record fee of £15 million on Britt Assombalonga from Nottingham Forest, after the striker scored 14 goals for Forest last season, when Forest escaped relegation on the last day of the season by the skin of their teeth.
#WestHam have signed Mexican striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez for a fee in the region of £16m#PremierLeague #TransferNews pic.twitter.com/0wpCa75kun— The Pitchsider (@ThePitchsider) July 20, 2017
And let’s not even get into the fees that Manchester United has been paying for players. Even West Ham United spent “only” reportedly £16 million for Javier Hernandez from Bayer Leverkusen, a mere £1 million less than Boro paid for Assombalonga.
So while it is true that many of the signings that Orta has made for Leeds during the transfer window have been for players that haven’t proven themselves in the Championship, if it takes £15 million to get a 14 goal scorer, he’s right to take a hard pass at English attacking players. The transfer fee for Samu Saiz was rumored to be about €3.5 million, €560k for Caleb Ekuban, and around €2 million for Gianni Alioski. The total transfer fees for those three attackers is around £5.4 million, almost a third of the fee that Middlesbrough paid for Assombalonga.
Now are all of them going to work out? Perhaps, perhaps not. But rather than splash out the cash for English players that may not work out, it’s a better gamble to spend wisely looking for bargains. After all, Spain’s Segunda Division still has quality players, and Saiz scored 12 goals for Huesca last season. Alioski scored 16 goals from the wing at Lugano in Switzerland’s top flight, and while the level of competition in the Albania Premier Division might not be the same as the Championship, Ekuban scored 17 goals in 34 games.
So fear not, Leeds fans, Orta seems to have learned from his mistakes and is avoiding the big fees that plague the silly season in England. This squad finished 7th last season, and with the additions, Leeds should challenge for promotion, and even have money left over for a loan or two.