In 2001, Leeds United looked destined for great things. Champions League semi-finalists, the Yorkshire club were one of the top teams in England, yet financial disaster struck, and Leeds were relegated by 2004. Now, 16 years later, Leeds are back in the Premier League.
Leeds United were led back to the promised land by Marcelo Bielsa, a coach described as the ‘best in the world’ by Pep Guardiola.
Armed with an attacking philosophy and a team that won the Championship title by ten clear points, Leeds have already taken the Premier League by storm in the 2020/21 season thus far.
The question is, how well can the team perform? Premier League betting markets consider Leeds unlikely to be relegated at 10/1, but avoiding the drop will, of course, be the initial aim for Bielsa and co. The riches of the top-flight have taken almost two decades to arrive, and Leeds have no chance of throwing it away at the first hurdle.
WE ARE BACK!!! @PremierLeague
— Leeds United (@LUFC) July 17, 2020
Bielsa achieved promotion with a largely unfancied group of players, and the team had only managed a 13th place finish the season before he took over.
Players like Stuart Dallas, Luke Ayling, and Kalvin Phillips are vital to the way that Leeds United play, but none of them had ever played a single minute in the Premier League before the 2020/21 season.
Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani has stated that regularly finishing in the top six of the Premier League is the eventual aim for the Whites, and Leeds have made an ambitious entrance to the transfer market on their top-flight return.
Valencia striker and Spain regular Rodrigo Moreno was one of the first new faces at Elland Road, for a reported club-record fee of £27m. That’s the highest fee since Leeds signed Rio Ferdinand for £18m almost two decades ago. Signings of this type are atypical for newly promoted teams, and a team managed by Bielsa is unlikely to be here simply to make up the numbers.
— Premier League (@premierleague) September 27, 2020
Ever since Leeds United pushed champions, Liverpool, close at Anfield on opening day in a heroic 4-3 defeat, Leeds have marked their intention to throw everything at the Premier League. It might take a few years and a few further signings to happen, but few would bet against Leeds establishing themselves as one of the dominant forces in England once again.
Most Leeds United fans would take a 17th placed finish and survival in their first year back but, privately, the Leeds United faithful will be hoping for a little bit more.
Fellow Yorkshire side Sheffield United managed to finish in the top half on their return to the Premier League last season, and Leeds will feel that they can match the Blades in the way that they play.
Who knows how long Bielsa will choose to stay in West Yorkshire, but Leeds United fans will certainly hope that this is only the beginning of the journey. This is a ride that has been a thrill from the start, and they don’t want it to end yet.