It’s fair to say it’s not a great time at Leeds United right now.
Earlier on in the season, the club’s success brought a wave of reaction from the world football media.
In September we published an article titled ‘Leeds United – Marching on all over the world, the club is being reinflated’, and it was a time when football media far and wide was celebrating the potential return to prominence of a grand old name of English football.
We rounded it off with: ‘A momentum is building around the club which, added to the ever increasing status of the Championship, is branding gold, and whilst Andrea Radrizzani will have planned for part of this, it’s surely going better than even he expected.
Leeds United Marching on Together around the world media is largely fed by results, and if they keep going the club will inflate in that respect, opening up old avenues which had pretty much forgotten about the Whites.
Foreign fans will remember they’ve got a Leeds United scarf three draws down in the spare room, and start to take interest again. Commercial contracts will have that added % jump.
There’s so much to gain for Leeds United right now, but, likewise, so much to lose if this bubble is burst too soon.’
Unfortunately it burst very quickly and now there’s not so many stories about Leeds, even the Swedish media seem somewhat bored of Pontus Jansson.
Samu Saiz, who at one time was the subject of Spanish newspaper articles celebrating his Leeds impact, has been unavailable due to a ban for a spitting, something the media in Spain don’t seem quite as keen to cover.
The Macedonian media have largely forgotten about the existence of Ezgjan Alioski, which may be for the best.
Over in Germany Felix Wiedwald’s move to Leeds United was seen as something of a coup, and it’s fair to say many surrounding Werder Bremen weren’t happy at all with the move. The first signs of a wobble for the goalkeeper and he was out of the team, much to his surprise, and his confidence was shot.
A first season in a new country made more difficult and it’s something the 27 year old doesn’t yet seem to have recovered from.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga has had roller-coaster coverage, with there being a positive slant at the moment and questions why Hamburg ever let him go in the first place. But Carpi announcing Leeds have an agreement to sign Jerry Mbakogu is perhaps a signal Lasogga won’t be kept on.
Signing Serie B players with help from a friend of the owner (Lorenzo Tonetti, who runs a high profile restaurant in Milan) was supposed to be the kind of thing consigned to the Massimo Cellino era.
Thomas Christiansen’s sacking brought a little coverage but of course it all came with a negative slant. In September Danish newspaper BT had the Leeds manager depicted as Christ on the front page of their sport section, explaining how much fans liked him and how well he was doing.
When they announced his sacking, Christiansen had gone from being a Danish hero, to BT describing him as ‘Danish’ with a nod towards his Spanish football background. They were almost washing their hands of the connection which they had celebrated in September.
September 2017, Danish newspaper BT have Leeds manager Thomas Christiansen depicted as Jesus Christ on their sport front page.
February 2018, Christiansen sacked, and BT now want to point out he’s ‘Danish’ rather than Danish, passing some blame to Spain.
Life is cruel. pic.twitter.com/K8HifSgAKS
— Sport Witness (@Sport_Witness) February 5, 2018
The most coverage Leeds United have managed recently was through the badge farce. Hitting headlines all around the world, the club had a chance to turn the mockery and embarrassment into a good news story. That Radrizzani, with such a successful media background, hasn’t managed that is a surprise.
It was an open goal, some fans (general fans of the game, the badge issue became owned by all interested) even suggested Leeds had planned the whole thing to show how much they listen to fans.
The chance was lost and the new badge consultation lacked any of the fanfare, humour, and contrition required to surf that particular wave.
Victor Orta is the subject of a backlash from Leeds fans right now, who are starting to accept their Middlesbrough counterparts may have had a point. Being a very well connected sporting director brings with it disadvantages as well as pluses.
A good contacts book isn’t the sure way to be able to identify and sign value talent, but it does mean the telephone often rings with ‘market opportunities’.
Aspire’s partnership was officially announced in January, but had been reported widely in Spain all season, with the media there learning what was going on through Cultural Leonesa connections.
If the plan is to sign players on a transfer gamble, and try and make money down the line, then Ouasim Bouy’s experience at Cultural was a disaster. The defender, who turns 25 in June, hasn’t played a minute of football since the eleven he got against Tenerife in November, which took his grand total for the season to 148 minutes.
Now in Yorkshire, what will happen with Bouy is another curiosity.
Yosuke Ideguchi signing for Leeds and moving to Cultural caused a stir in Japan, and he’s so far picked up 54 minutes over three appearances. There’s time for that one to work out better but the question of what exactly will be going on with Leeds and the Aspire network is still to be answered, and any updates which do come seem drip fed.
The Yuta Toyokwa deal was eyebrow raising at the very least, KAS Eupen (another Aspire branch) won’t have announced they’d signed him on loan from Leeds United for absolutely no reason. There must have been something behind the Belgian club stating he was a Leeds player, rather than a straight transfer, and that situation still doesn’t appear completely cleared up.
Paul Heckingbottom now has the job of getting Leeds United off the slippery slope and he should take some hope from it being clear how quickly fortunes can change at Elland Road… only this time it needs to be for the better.
But will Heckingbottom find himself going around in a transfer circle with Orta, Radrizzani associates and Aspire? Leeds United fans will hope not.