It would be fair to say that Leeds United director of football Victor Orta is not the most popular man at Elland Road. Fans of the West Yorkshire side have continuously made their feelings about the Spaniard clear this season. His recruitment has been called into question, with several new signings failing to fire for Leeds in the Championship this season. In fact, it is hard to name any who have been consistently good all season after Samu Saiz’s recent dip in form.
But Leeds fans have to recognise one inconvenient truth about Orta … he has worked wonders with the under-23 recruitment.
Back in February former Leeds defender Ian Harte was publicly critical of the Leeds under-23s on Twitter. He felt the club was losing its identity and with it, the passion and desire to play for Leeds.
At the time Leeds’ form at the youth level was middling. They were inconsistent and looked set for a bottom half campaign. But since that criticism, they have been fantastic. Carlos Corberan guided them to one defeat, and two draws from their final 10 games. Such blistering form saw Leeds finish the season in sixth position and hopes are high for the next generation of Leeds players.
Which is where Orta deserves credit. In their final under-23 game of the season against Bristol City, the Whites ran out comfortable 4-0 winners. Of the 15-player squad taken to Ashton Gate, 12 were brought to the club under Orta’s network.
Goalkeeper Kamil Miazek, defenders Bryce Hosannah, Pascal Struijk, Hugo Diaz, midfielders Jordan Stevens and Oriol Rey, strikers Sam Dalby and Alejandro Machuca and substitutes Oussama Siddiki, Adrian Balboa and Madger Gomes were all Orta signings this season. Only Tyler Denton, Ryan Shackleton and Harrison Male were at Leeds prior to Orta’s arrival.
Some fans have levelled criticism at Orta for his development of the youth-team over the seniors but he has built a solid base of young talent with the likes of Kun Temenuzhukov, Ryan Edmondson and Aapo Halme also worth keeping an eye on.
Leeds’ youth divisions had become thin in talent and the risk of losing the tradition of bringing through young players at the club was increasing.
Orta has done well to find a balance of bringing in talent from abroad as well as English players to create a solid Leeds United under-23 and under-18 unit – the latter of which recently won their respective league title.
Orta deserves plenty of criticism, but not for the work he has done with the under-23 unit.
Hopefully, he can now bring similar improvements to the current Leeds United first-team.
Bielsa’s Engine Room: Kalvin Phillips continues to thrive in new Leeds role
The 22-year-old came through the Elland Road academy system.
After Marco Bielsa’s Leeds United continued their impressing winning start to the season this weekend, recording a 2-1 victory over Rotherham, several players are being highlighted for praise.
Among those who deserve the majority share of the plaudits is 22-year-old Kalvin Phillips, who continues to thrive in the playing style implemented by the club’s new boss.
A player capable of keeping it simple at the base of the midfield, Phillips has proven to be astute defensively and comfortable in possession – key traits for a player to thrive in the Argentine’s system.
Against Rotherham on Saturday, he registered 112 touches, more than any other player on the pitch and a personal best for the club.
He also completed the most passes on the day (88), recorded more interceptions than anyone else (six) and created two chances, one of which went down as an assist.
Rotherham marked a third exceptional Championship performance of the season for the youngster, with his movement and distribution keeping the ball ticking over in central midfield.
The academy talent is proving himself to be a force in central midfield for the Whites, quickly establishing himself as the lynchpin of the Bielsa revolution at Elland Road.
If Phillips can maintain this level of performance he will be integral in the club’s promotion push throughout the remainder of the season.
Andrea Radrizzani drops hints on ambitious Leeds United plans
It has been a superb start to the season for the Peacocks.
Leeds United fans will be thrilled with Andrea Radrizzani after seeing the Peacocks thrive at the start of the new season.
Securing Marcelo Bielsa to lead the charge for promotion at Elland Road was a masterful coup, with the former Athletic Bilbao and Marseille boss enjoying a lightning-quick start to life in English football.
With Leeds established as the early pacesetters in the Championship promotion charge, many have realised that a long-awaited return to the Premier League could be on the horizon – as the club approaches it’s 15th year since the 2004 relegation.
After a turbulent period before Radrizzani’s reign in Yorkshire, and a tough campaign last season, concerns about Leeds were understandable but comments from the Italian have revealed just how dedicated he is to his role and have outlined his plans for the future.
In an in-depth interview with Gazzetta Dello Sport, Radrizzani remarkably revealed he held talks with former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, Leicester City‘s title-winning hero Claudio Ranieri and World Cup semi-finalist Roberto Martinez about taking charge at Elland Road.
It is easy to sit there and identify dream names you would love to have at the club but Radrizzani’s comments, along with the fact that Leeds managed to lure Bielsa to the Championship, suggest that there was a distinct possibility of a move for one of the three aforementioned managerial giants.
Radrizzani, it must be stressed, made it clear that he is thrilled with Bielsa and was ‘charged’ by Victor Orta’s statement that bringing the Argentine to the club was unfortunately impossible – which of course proved to be incorrect.
The most interesting comment from Radrizzani’s lengthy interview though does not relate to the past pushes for managerial candidates or for transfer targets but instead sees him discuss the future – and when he could walk away from the club.
“England is the top, I want the Premier League in 3-4 years, otherwise I could seriously think about the return [to Italy].”
Suggestions of an exit later down the line will surely be the quotes that the tabloids jump upon and will leave fans to be concerned but there is actually a positive spin to the situation, which shows Radrizzani has a plan and is not just throwing money around in pursuit of a dream.
Ever since relegation in 2004, Leeds have strived for long-term stability and Radrizzani has the same goal for the club. Even if in four years time the Peacocks are not back in the Premier League and the Italian departs, the Yorkshire giants would certainly be in a much stronger position than they have been in recent years.
On this day: Leeds cash in on Wood, Coutinho told he’s staying and Seri’s Barca links
What were the big stories in football a year ago today? Including Leeds United, Liverpool and Fulham.
One year ago today and Leeds United lost their talismanic striker Chris Wood to Burnley. After a tumultuous summer of rumours and conjecture, the club’s leading scorer left in a club record £15 million deal.
In his two seasons at Leeds the New Zealand international scored an impressive 44 goals in 88 games for the Whites.
Leeds were desperate not to lose the player and ended up paying for his absence. They failed to replace him, with nearest replica Pierre-Michel Lasogga falling short of expectations.
Wood has since gone on to establish himself at Burnley, scoring 11 goals in 26 games during his first season at Turf Moor.
Leeds now have Kemar Roofe firing and also signed Patrick Bamford this summer.
A year ago today and Liverpool had managed to keep hold of Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian had been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona throughout last summer.
However, as reported by Sky Sports a year ago, Liverpool made it clear Coutinho was going nowhere.
In the end, it proved to just be a stall. Coutinho completed the inevitable switch to Barcelona in January for a fee of £146 million.
However, many Liverpool fans would perhaps argue the club are now performing better than they ever did when Coutinho was at Anfield.
Signed by Fulham this summer, a year ago today it seemed Jean-Michael Seri was on his way to Barcelona.
Marca suggested that Barcelona had met the apparent £36.6 million release clause in his contract at Nice. Unfortunately, that clause had expired.
With Barcelona not willing to pay more, they moved on.
Seri joined Fulham this summer for a club record fee.
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