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Rival Business, Not Injuries, Should Dictate What Leeds Spend. Part 2 of 3.

A look at some of the names that have been linked with Leeds

Deportivo Alaves v Athletic Club - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

In the article previous to this, I gave my assessment of what Leeds’ policy on January transfers should be. That being; to look for reinforcements, in order to countermand the moves by other clubs in the top half of the table to strengthen and close the gap to Leeds and Norwich at the top. Indeed, the wheels are already in motion. West Bromwich Albion now look to have beaten Leeds to the loan signing of Everton defender Mason Holgate, whilst Sheffield United have confirmed the arrival of Everton’s excellent young winger Kieran Dowell. What will the Leeds response be in this January arms race? Let’s take a look at some of the players that Leeds United have already been linked with in the media:

Ibai Gómez: If the storming progress on the pitch by Marcelo Bielsa’s men has distracted you from transfer talk, then you may have missed the news that Leeds are one of several sides, including Premier League Leicester City, interested in Deportivo Alavés winger Ibai Gómez. A dead-ball specialist, the Basque midfielder is a former student of Bielsa-ball, having played under the manager during their time together at Athletic Bilbao. This, alongside the fact that Gómez has only six months to run on his current deal with Alavés, is probably the reason behind much of the speculation.

Will it happen? Probably not. Bilbao, Leicester, and Sporting Clube de Portugal provide stern competition for his signature, and Alavés are asking a lot of money for a player who is soon out of contract and probably past his prime. What’s more, Basque players are notoriously difficult to convince when it comes to moves abroad. Remember when Real Madrid tried to sign Kepa Arrizabalaga from Bilbao? He turned them down and signed a new eight-year deal, meaning Chelsea had to stump up something in the region of half the treasury to actually get him. Even supposing Gómez signs, what are the odds on him settling, after what happened with Saiz? Short of putting him in a straightjacket, I don’t think we will get this one over the line.

Karl Darlow: If the club hierarchy are serious about one thing in January, then it seems to be signing a goalkeeper. This means that Marcelo Bielsa has explicitly asked to sign a goalkeeper, and though linked with the experienced Keiran Westwood and the outstanding Tom Heaton, Darlow seems to be the most viable, Marcelo-approved choice.

Will it happen? It could. Rafa Benitez has come out and said that the player is not for sale, because he wants to offload a different goalkeeper, Rob Elliot. This was, in part, a probable response to an initial inquiry by Leeds regarding the possibility of loaning Darlow. Should Leeds come back with a firm purchase offer in the region of four million pounds; more or less what Newcastle paid Nottingham Forest to sign the ‘keeper, then that offer would surely be taken under consideration, what with the Magpies still having Martin Dubravka, Elliot and the superb Freddie Woodman on their books.

Jarrod Bowen: The scorer of a decisive brace against Leeds at Elland Road last Saturday. Linked to the club in the build-up to the match by BBC Humberside, who you would think must have some sort of inside track. They inferred specifically that Leeds were preparing a multi-million pound offer for the Hull City wing-forward, who has caught the eye in the previous two seasons.

Will it happen? I don’t think so. As well as Bowen played on Saturday, he was overshadowed in my opinion and has been all year by the incredible Kamil Grosicki, who is the first name on my January wish-list. Leeds were quick to dismiss the notion of a Bowen bid, which probably means Victor Orta did line up the deal as reported, then he asked Marcelo and Marcelo said ‘Nah.’ Whether that view will have changed or not after Saturday, it remains to be seen. Bowen would seem to fit with Leeds’ unexpected recent policy of buying British. I think he would require too much coaching to be of any use this season.

Baghdad Bounedjah: Algerian Al-Sadd forward Bounedjah was linked with a move to Elland Road throughout the latter part of 2018, and the attacker boasts an impressive strike-rate. At the age of 27, he has hit his prime, but has yet to test himself in a top league. There has been enough media attention that Leeds have surely scouted him, at the very least. May play in the Middle East, but so did West Ham’s brilliant Manuel Lanzini. And so did Pablo.

Will it happen? Not at the current asking price. Al-Sadd wanted more than ten million pounds to sell the striker in the summer, and that does not appear to have changed. Coupled with this, Bounedjah has just signed a new, long-term contract to tie him to the Qatari club, leaving any potential deal dead in the water. I’m not fussed; there was a whiff of Caleb Ekuban about this deal. Great strike-rate, but in a poor, uncompetitive league.

Doom and gloom? It certainly seems so! And what’s more, Leeds do not appear to have been linked with anyone who would represent a direct replacement for Samuel Saiz. Which players would have the level of quality to play Bielsa-ball and move the team forward, while representing a decent investment for the future? Check out Part 3, where I will have a look at some of the options.