Leeds United's summer transfer plans: who will stay, whose future is in doubt?

In their first transfer window without Marcelo Bielsa since January 2018, changes are afoot at Leeds United.

Director of football Victor Orta, not Bielsa, was and still is in charge of transfers at Elland Road but commonsense dictated there was no point signing players who did not meet with the coach's approval. When Bielsa was presented with those he was lukewarm about, such as Eddie Nketiah and Jean-Kevin Augustin, it proved pretty futile.

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And although Bielsa's replacement, Jesse Marsch, was picked because of certain similarities with the Argentinian, there are plenty of differences too - he was a unique personality with a unique way of playing.

FOND FAREWELL? Raphinha celebrates with Leeds United fans at the end of what could well prove to be his last game for the club, at Brentford

"There's a lot to do, almost everything," reflected Marsch in the first hour after the season ended. Transfers, then, are only a small part but they are the most high-profile.

Marsch's football is more direct, although in terms of formations it has morphed more in the direction of Bielsaball since his tenure started with a very narrow 4-2-2-2 at Leicester City.

In modern football it is never as simple as deciding who you want to keep, and booting out the rest. Players have contracts which will make it harder for some of those who want out to leave against Leeds's will, and much tougher for the club to move on those who would prefer to stay. But keeping reluctant players is seldom a good idea as Leeds decided with Cody Drameh in January, so if the right offer comes in for a player with itchy feet, there is a good chance of them moving on.

With squad depth a real issue in 2021-22, there should be more incomings than outgoings with Salzburg's Brenden Aaronson a target they are known to be keen to return to, although there will be an ideological wish to partly address that from within the under-23 set-ups.

COMMITTED: Kalvin Phillips (left, with Jesse Marsch at Molineux) has always demonstrated a desire to be at Leeds United on and off the field

Here we look at who might stay, and whose future could be in doubt.


Kalvin Phillips has been very vocal in his desire to stay at Leeds and his actions very rarely suggest anything different, but in a World Cup year, a relegation could have forced him into the sort of reluctant departure James Milner and Alan Smith made when the Whites were last relegated from the Premier League. Fortunately, that was averted.

Moving to a shape which better played to his strengths - a more Bielsa-like 4-1-4-1 set-up - for much of the final two games of the season should also have given the 26-year-old hope he can express himself under Marsch.

The American's aversion to wingers did not bode well for Jack Harrison but he has adapted enthusiastically under his old New York rival, scoring four goals in his 12 matches. He looks like being a key figure next season.

"We have an incredible core and a great captain," said Marsch on Sunday. There is what managers say and what they believe, but his actions so far have not betrayed him, even if it does feel like for differing reasons, the core might be running its course.

The captain, Liam Cooper, has been a go-to player in the most competitive area of Leeds's squad once he got fit, and having been on the bench for Marsch's first game, Adam Forshaw quickly made himself a key figure even after injury ended his season.

Patrick Bamford's lack of game time, Stuart Dallas's broken leg and Luke Ayling's knee operation which could delay his season would make them hard to move on even if either party wanted a divorce, which seems very unlikely.

It fizzled out a bit but Rodrigo made a great start to life under Marsch, thriving under the responsibility of joining his "leadership council" and although Dan James's poor goal output is held against him by many, his workrate and willingness to play out of position score highly with managers.

Leeds clearly want to continue pushing youth so Joe Gelhardt, Sam Greenwood, Lewis Bate and (briefly) Kristoffer Klaesson's appearances for Marsch should see them become fully-fledged seniors alongside Jamie Shackleton. The coach has name-dropped Crysencio Summerville and Charlie Cresswell numerous times and Leo Fuhr Hjelde filled in impressively for Bielsa.


There seems little doubt Raphinha will not be at Elland Road next season not because he has not been good enough, but because he was so good. That is the way of it when you bring players in from abroad, and he seems highly likely to be heading to Barcelona, but Leeds have certainly had their money's worth.

They will certainly want to keep Illan Meslier but the quality of some of the goalkeeper's performances - certainly not flawless, but exciting - is bound to put him on a few shopping lists.

Pascal Struijk was outstanding in the early part of the season in particular but he suffers from his main position being Cooper's. His only two starts after Marsch were one as a third centre-back and one a left-back. Leeds will not want to lose him but there is a danger he could get restless.

Matheusz Klich has gone from ever-present to bit-part player in the last 18 months and lost his midfield place to 20-year-old forward Greenwood on the decisive final day. Signing Aaronson or another box-to-box midfielder would only threaten to make him more vulnerable. He seems to love life in Leeds but Poland's place at this winter's World Cup could give him food for thought.

Tyler Roberts has not played since getting injured in Marsch's first game and has never really got beyond a bit-part role. If Wales get to the World Cup too, that could enter his thinking.

It felt like Cody Drameh burnt his bridges with Bielsa when asking to leave on loan in January when the coach wanted him to stay - and really could have done with him. Others in the hierarchy will probably have been stung by that too - Orta is nothing if not emotional - but Marsch may take the usual "clean slate" approach of managers, and judge him in pre-season.

Junior Firpo has underwhelmed in his debut season and whilst Robin Koch and Diego Llorente have not been disasters, they have not lived up to expectations either in their two seasons, so serious bids for any of them would not be dismissed out of hand at a club where transfer spending has been far from extravagant.