Former Leeds United hero Eirik Bakke wonders what might have been if they had qualified for Champions League in 2001

Elland Road

The Norwegian has been speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post this weekend.

Former Leeds United hero Eirik Bakke has been speaking about the club to the Yorkshire Evening Post this weekend. The Norwegian, who played for the club from 1999 until 2006, was a popular figure at Leeds and played during their last golden era.

He has been speaking about that time in his career and, musing over what might have been.

He told the YEP:

“There were great memories going Barcelona, Madrid and Milan. I’ll always remember drawing in the San Siro and singing songs with the fans afterwards and the Deportivo game was great. It was just such a journey.

“It was just a shame we didn’t qualify for the Champions League the year after as if we’d done that, I think Leeds probably would not have had to start selling people. It could have been different.

“It was a big group together with the fans. But the dressing room then started to fall apart and we were selling player after player and didn’t replace them. It was tough and the team split.”

He was part of the Leeds United squad that made it to the Champions League semi-final in the 2000-01 season.

They lost that tie to Rafa Benitez's Valencia and their demise has been steady since that day.

Leeds finished fourth in the Premier League that season, just two points off of Arsenal in second and one behind Liverpool in the final qualification place for the Champions League.

Former chairman Peter Risdale's gamble had not paid off. With failing to qualify for the Champions League Leeds lost out on a huge windfall of money.

The big sums of money spent on Rio Ferdinand, Mark Viduka, Olivier Dacourt and Robbie Keane had not paid off. Their solution was to spend more.

Robbie Fowler and Seth Johnson were expensive flops and Leeds United soon struggled to stay afloat.

Looking back on that Leeds season Bakke is reflective and Leeds fans must be as well. If they had finished above Liverpool in 2001, might they still be in the Premier League today?

Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but the reality is that the culture of spending and essentially gambling on making the money back was never a solid business model. Eventually, things would have gone belly up at Leeds under the poor ownership of the club.

This season, Leeds, under an entirely different breed of owner, are looking to return to the Premier League on a relative shoestring compared to 2001.

Leeds fans will hope that their team can give the likes of Bakke something to smile about this season.

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