With interest intensifying from Europe’s elite clubs, it is looking increasingly likely that one or both of Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips will leave Leeds United this summer. The club do not want to lose either, but understand both have the desire to play in Europe and challenge for titles – not to mention the inevitable pay-rise that comes with a move to a top club.
Phillips is touted for a move to Manchester City, with the Premier League champions keen on replacing Fernandinho and adding to the English core of the squad, while Arsenal have emerged as front-runners for Raphinha, despite seeing their first bid knocked back. And while many Leeds fans understandably want to keep both, history tells them that clubs like Manchester City and Arsenal usually land their man.
A realistic outlook for the summer would be that Leeds follow Leicester City’s proven model of selling one key asset and reinvesting the money into a replacement plus further strengthening. The club have already spent ?45million on the signings of Brenden Aaronson, Rasmus Kristensen and Marc Roca, and any more arrivals will likely be funded by the sale of one big-money player.
Whether that sale be Raphinha or Phillips, Victor Orta and Jesse Marsch will have around ?60million in the bank to reinvest, and Leeds Live have taken the liberty of spending it all for them.
Direct replacement (midfielder/winger)
The first port of call for a club who lose their prized asset is to replace them as quickly as possible. The Whites have already been linked with a host of defensive midfielders and wingers as a result of the increasing speculation over player sales, and the replacement of Raphinha/Phillips is where the bulk of the money should go.
If Phillips leaves for the Etihad, then there are two solid options. RB Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams looks set to leave this summer and has played under Marsch at New York Red Bulls – he would be a sound addition at around ?25million. However, with ?60million in the bank, there’s an opportunity to go big by bringing in Mohamed Camara. The RB Salzburg midfielder would provide the perfect counterweight to Roca by adding athleticism and defensive intelligence to the double-pivot – he is in demand across Europe, and rightly so, and would cost around ?30million.
If Raphinha is the one to leave this summer, then replacing him will prove a decisive point for Orta’s reputation at Elland Road. The Leeds director of football may be tempted to try his luck with another Raphinha-style bargain, and is not short of options – mainly in the form of ?8.5million-rated Gonzalo Plata. But with a lump sum in the bank and Premier League status on the line he and Leeds will need to go top-shelf. If they can pip AC Milan and West Ham to the signing of Club Brugge’s Noa Lang, then they can land a long-time target and bring in some real attacking quality – he will cost considerably more at around ?25million but could prove hugely influential in future years.
Verdict: Mohamed Camara/Noa Lang – ?25/30million
Replacing either asset would not be the only priority in West Yorkshire. Leeds suffered badly upfront last season after Patrick Bamford’s injury problems led to Dan James being deployed as the main striker, and despite Bamford’s return to fitness, reinforcements are a must. Any additions will need to provide competition for Bamford and Joe Gelhardt without completely usurping the 20-year-old at a key point in his personal development.
Early links to New York City FC Striker Valentin Castellanos were promising, especially for just ?13million, but the step up from MLS to Premier League carries obvious risk. Proven Premier League/Championship talent, in the form of Armando Broja or Ben Brereton Diaz, offers a safer buy but comes with a cost – ?30million and ?20million respectively.
The most exciting option, however, and one which is worth the investment, is Paris Saint-Germain striker Arnaud Kalimuendo. Leeds have reportedly made an offer of around ?17millon for the 20-year-old after two loan spells at RC Lens in which he’s bagged 21 goals and six assists in 65 games across all competitions, but may have to up that slightly. The French under-21 international can play on the last line, drop deep into pockets and can play alongside a partner or on his own – most importantly, he’ll add goals.
Verdict: Arnaud Kalimuendo – ?20million
That leaves ?10million in the bank in which the club would be inclined to make add finishing touches to the squad – whether that be small fees for loan options or compensation for under-24s.
West Ham teenager Sonny Perkins has been on the radar of Orta as he continues to invest in promising youth talent, while Manchester City’s 18-year-old midfielder Romeo Lavia can also add depth and class to the midfield without demanding a starting place.
The club are also in the market for an experienced goalkeeper to act as back-up for Illan Meslier. Wolves’ John Ruddy and Watford’s Ben Foster both become free agents at the end of June.
Negligent fees in isolation for those three deals wouldn’t leave much change from the ?10million left, and would in the end mean five players coming in with the money made from one sale.