Share this @internewscast.com
The last-gasp victory at Brentford promised brighter days ahead for Leeds… but the imminent sales of Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha appear to have the Yorkshire club back where they started under Jesse Marsch
- Leeds survived on the final day at Brentford despite being odds-on to go down
- It had been expected that a fire sale would take place in the event of a relegation
- But survival had fans hoping various stars would remain at the club for 2022-23
- Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha, widely considered the best players, are off
When Leeds United star Raphinha climbed into the away end at Brentford following the final match of the Premier League season, it felt as if the flares burning around him were fuelling hope of a brighter day. The team had survived and a fire-sale would be avoided.
What has played out since renders memory of that breathless afternoon as hazy as the west London sunshine.
You left the Brentford Community Stadium believing that Leeds — odds-on favourites for relegation before kick-off — had won a reprieve. What they have since lost is their two best players, Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips, bound for Chelsea and Manchester City respectively.
It had been hoped after the miraculous escape at Brentford that this would be a good summer
Had Leeds gone down, their exits would have been inevitable. But that victory at Brentford and the emotion that followed — Phillips and Raphinha were front and centre of the celebrations — gave the impression of a squad and club reunited on what had threatened to be a day of division. A little more than a month out from the new campaign, however, and there is a danger that the departure of both players will leave a hole into which those left behind will stumble. There is a fear, too, that manager Jesse Marsch lacks the Premier League experience to navigate such pitfalls, and the same can be said of the club’s new signings to date.
Yes, a case can be made for each of Rasmus Kristensen, Brenden Aaronson and Marc Roca having the potential to emerge as smart acquisitions. But they look more like gambles at present, especially given the sketchy recruitment record of the current hierarchy.
Defender Kristensen and winger Aaronson have arrived from Marsch’s former side Red Bull Salzburg, who are increasingly taking on the guise of a Leeds United feeder club. Salzburg midfielder Mohamed Camara is also on their radar.
Kalvin Phillips is edging nearer to a move to Premier League champions Manchester City
But as Liverpool discovered with Takumi Minamino, star turns in Austria can become lost amid the constellation of the Premier League. Roca, meanwhile, has spent the past two seasons as a Bayern Munich reserve. Road-tested Premier League recruits these are not.
Phillips and Raphinha were as consistent as they were brilliant — to replace them with unknowns raises more questions than answers. There is a feeling of lessons having not been learnt from signings such as Junior Firpo, Diego Llorente, Robin Koch and Rodrigo, an expensive quartet of misses and maybes. The team spent most of last season a confused rabble playing to their weaknesses. It was only their spirit and moments of individual excellence that saw them to safety – just.
And then there was the poison that had begun to drip down from the stands in the latter weeks of the campaign. Elland Road, while intimidating and a force of nature at its best, had become toxic.
Marc Roca struggled to make an impact at Bayern Munich under Julian Naglesmann and spent two seasons in the reserves
It is perhaps forgotten that, until Pascal Struijk headed a 92nd-minute equaliser in the final home match against Brighton, supporters had turned on owner Andrea Radrizzani and his boardroom cohorts.
‘Brentford feels like a long time ago,’ Graham Hyde, vice-chair of the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust, told Sportsmail.
‘There was always a sense that one of Phillips or Raphinha could go. For both to leave in the same summer is worrying. We have lost star quality and not replaced it.’
Rasmus Kristensen has arrived from RB Salzburg but the jury is out on players arriving from the Austrian league to the English top flight
Then there is Marsch, the American boss about whom supporters remain sceptical.
‘I am unconvinced by what I have seen so far,’ added Hyde. ‘Last season it was only really when his game-plan didn’t work that the players then salvaged results from games.
‘There is also a recognition that the team stayed up. But there is certainly apprehension going into the new season.’
Given the default summer setting of almost all football fans is one of optimism, Hyde’s is a very telling admission.
There is apprehension going into the new season, according to one Leeds fan with many remaining uncertain over Jesse Marsch