When Leeds United take the pitch to kick off their Premier League season in September, it will end their 16-year exile from the top flight.
Leeds fans have been waiting to be at the top table of English football again for more than a decade-and-a-half and that moment has arrived. Marcelo Bielsa turned a mid-table Championship side into league winners in two years’ time.
Bielsa will need serious investment in his squad to make sure their stay in the Premier League lasts at least more than one season.
But the question remains, is the Leeds United manager himself ready to change his team much next season?
Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani has indicated that their investment this summer will mirror Sheffield United’s judicious approach from last year rather than Aston Villa’s transfer splurge.
Marcelo Bielsa is also unlikely to lose faith in the players who won him promotion. The Leeds United manager is largely expected to stick to the core of the side and invest in certain areas of his squad that he deems need more strengthening to make his team fit for the Premier League.
The Argentine will stick to his principles and if Leeds United are to avoid relegation next season, it will be down to their work on the training ground rather than in the market.
That is what Marcelo Bielsa believes in and expect him to stick to his core values despite the temptation of spending big ahead of their return to the top flight.
Where can Leeds United strengthen?
Patrick Bamford is a lot of things but he is not a reliable goalscorer. He misses too many chances and is yet to prove himself in the Premier League.
However, Marcelo Bielsa trusts him implicitly for what he brings to the team in terms of forward play and expect the former Chelsea man to start the season as Leeds United’s first-choice striker.
But Leeds United are expected to sign a forward to compete with Bamford and they are looking at targets across Europe.
Jean-Kevin Augustin is still scheduled to join Leeds United this summer on a permanent deal but the club are working hard to get out of the agreement they had with RB Leipzig.
The Frenchman didn’t impress during his loan stint and was sent back early by Bielsa. The Leeds boss doesn’t want him and it is a legal wrangle the club will have to find a way out of.
Gent’s Jonathan David is a target but the Canadian attacker has his heart set on joining Lille. VfB Stuttgart’s Nicolas Gonzalez is also believed to be on Leeds’ radar.
Do not count out on Leeds United trying to sign a proven performer in the Premier League as well. Relegated Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki could be on the move this summer and he is a player Leeds might want to have.
The Yorkshire giants are also looking to bring in back-up for Pablo Hernandez. The Spaniard has been pivotal in Leeds’ rise but he is 35 and will need to be managed carefully next season.
The veteran can still make an impact but Leeds United need someone who can shoulder his responsibility in the team.
Leeds United are also looking for a midfielder, preferably a back up to Kalvin Phillips. The 24-year-old has been terrific over the last two seasons but Leeds do not have anyone in their squad who does the same job as him.
Marcelo Bielsa was forced into playing Ben White in the role when Phillips was suspended or injured last season.
Leeds United are keen to have a proper back up to Phillips in their squad. Benfica’s 20-year-old midfielder Florentino has been linked with a move to Elland Road.
The Whites are also expected to sign a new goalkeeper if Kiko Casilla leaves the club. The Spaniard got embroiled in a racial controversy and missed the last leg of the Championship campaign.
20-year-old Illan Meslier started the last ten of Leeds’ eleven league games and kept seven clean sheets. It was telling that the Frenchman started the last game as well when Casilla was available to play.
Bielsa trusts Meslier but it remains to be seen whether the Frenchman gets the nod to feature on the first day of the Premier League season or Leeds United decide to bring in a more experienced hand in the summer.
The Ben White conundrum
Leeds United signed Ben White from Brighton last summer on a loan deal and he was part of the meanest defence of the Championship last season.
The 22-year-old defender earned the implicit trust of Marcelo Bielsa and played every minute of the Championship season. White and Liam Cooper formed a brilliant centre-back pairing that gave Leeds United the base on which they constructed their promotion campaign.
But White has returned to Brighton and Leeds United do not have an option to buy him this summer. The Seagulls are expected to give the defender an opportunity to cement his place in their team next season.
Graham Potter likes the young centre-back and is in no mood to sell him to Leeds United, who are likely to be their relegation rivals in the Premier League.
Complicating things further for Leeds is the interest of some of the big boys of the Premier League in White. The defender’s performances last season have turned heads and he is said to be on Liverpool’s radar this summer.
The Yorkshire giants have not given up hope of signing Ben White ahead of the new season but it will take some convincing on their part to get a deal over the line with Brighton.
Leeds United will ideally, like to have White in their squad but are looking at other defensive options as Marcelo Bielsa needs at least one more defender in his squad.
Tottenham Hotspur defender Juan Foyth is on Bielsa’s radar and Spurs are willing to sell the Argentine defender who has not featured much under Jose Mourinho this season.