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.