Leeds United’s stance on January transfer windows is clear as next phase looms – Beren Cross

Leeds United’s summer transfer window is barely cold and yet attention for many supporters will turn to the next deal and what’s going to happen in January.

Director of football Victor Orta has already spoken about his satisfaction with the window as a whole, while Marcelo Bielsa has said more than once he is happy with his squad.

Daniel James has been added and Helder Costa taken away since those comments from Bielsa, so as it stands, publicly at least, the club are content with their current roster.

Left-back looks a little light on numbers and the question marks around central midfield will only be answered by Adam Forshaw’s long-term progress, but when January 1 arrives there is no glaring problem which needs solving.

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The big difference between January and summer windows under Bielsa is the time new players have to then make an impression and return on the investment made by Leeds.

Last year, chief executive Angus Kinnear addressed this point in an interview on The Square Ball’s podcast. The points he made then are still relevant now.

“We’re always open to taking opportunities,” he said in December 2020. “Raphinha was just that type of opportunity.

“There is a list of our core targets we’re going after and then there are other players obviously we would love, but for whatever reason we don’t think they’re within our reach.

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“It might be because they’re happy at their club, their contract’s long, their salary’s too high, their wages are too high, they wouldn’t consider coming to Leeds.

“That’s where we rely on Victor’s network of contacts. When he gets the call a week before the window is closed, Raphinha is available, we didn’t think he would be, then he suddenly jumps to the top of our list.”

January has not traditionally been a successful month for the Whites to do business in the Bielsa era.

In Bielsa’s first season we had Kiko Casilla, who, as a goalkeeper, needed less adaptation and did work out in terms of pitch time.

There was the James disaster which never happened and certainly feeds into this chaotic narrative around the January marketplace.

It was 2019/20 and the start of 2020 which really steers the outlook on doing business in January, though.

Ian Poveda did ultimately play his way to the fringes of the squad in the long run, but he did not make his debut until June, five months after arriving, and that only came because of the campaign’s postponement.

Jean-Kevin Augustin is the major lesson, though. This was the classic case of a potential star, who was unfit and unplayed coming into a group which was the fittest in the division.

There is simply no time to get January recruits up and running quickly enough to make them worthwhile, especially worthy of a place in a high-energy system like Bielsa’s.

Who, realistically, is going to be available mid-season to come into a talented, tireless, tight-knit group and wrestle a starting spot away from someone?

Barring major injury to one of the club’s main stars or an unexpected transfer out, serious business in January 2022 would be a departure from Kinnear’s previous comments.

“There is always the chance something happens like that (Raphinha) in January, but the reality in January is firstly it’s a very difficult window to generate any value in because people are normally panicking and therefore paying over the odds,” said Kinnear.

Angus Kinnear and Victor Orta applaud their team after the match during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Burnley at Elland Road on December 27, 2020
Angus Kinnear and Victor Orta will already be talking January

“We don’t want to do that. The second thing is the summer window closed much later than it normally does, so January is coming much sooner and therefore the need to readjust isn’t required.

“The third thing is, as we all know, Marcelo takes weeks to integrate a player into a squad and we support that, it’s the right thing to do and it’s proven successful, but if you buy somebody at the end of the January window and they take six or eight weeks to adapt and get up to Marcelo’s fitness level, to understand the system, you’re really only buying them for the last month of the season.

“Any purchase we would ever make in January now, and we’ve learnt this in the last couple of years, would really be for next season rather than for this season.

“So it will be very unlikely to see any kind of knee-jerk reaction of filling a position or a gap now.

“It will be more likely to be as players become available and we need them for the long term, which is why, to manage expectations, it’s going to be quiet [in January 2021].”

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