Leeds United XI If They Had Kept Their Best Players

Leeds United's Jonny Howson celebrates scoring his sides second goal with Max Gradel

How Leeds United could line-up had they kept hold of their best players

Swansea manager Garry Monk

Leeds United head into the 2016/17 season having yet again sold one of their most talented players, this time in the form of 19-year-old midfielder Lewis Cook, who joined Bournemouth last week.

Leeds have now been playing their football outside of the Premier League for 12 years, spending three of those in League One and having finished in the bottom half of the Championship in each of the last 5 seasons. 

Despite struggling for so long, it is not the case that Leeds have lacked quality players in that time, but rather that when good players do surface at Elland Road, they have rarely remained there for any great period of time. 

Leeds United’s Lewis Cook scores their first goalLewis Cook (pictured above) is the latest star to leave Leeds

Whilst the club have often made tidy profit on the sale of their most prized assets, perhaps focussing on success on the field would have seen Leeds return to the Premier League and actually receive a greater return than the sale of said players.

Below is a possible starting XI that Leeds could field had they managed to keep their squad together in recent years:

Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel

Leicester's Kasper Schmeichel, Christian Fuchs and manager Claudio Ranieri celebrate with the trophy after winning the Barclays Premier League

 

Kasper Schmeichel won the Premier League at Leicester City last season, but prior to joining the Foxes, Schmeichel played his football at Leeds. The son of Manchester United legend Peter, Kasper won plaudits at Leeds, although he did make the occasional mistake. He is now ranked among the best 'keepers in the Premier League. 

Right-Back: Sam Byram

West Ham's Sam Byram receives instructions

Signed by Slaven Bilic at West Ham last January, Sam Byram has played only 4 games for West Ham, but played 143 for Leeds. Capable of playing at either right-back or on the right wing, Byram has a lot of potential and would be a big boost were he still at Leeds. 

Centre-Back: Matthew Kilgallon

Blackburn Rovers' Danny Graham celebrates scoring their second goal with Matthew Kilgallon

Currently plying his trade at Blackburn Rovers, Matthew Kilgallon may not seem like a star, but the 32-year-old who left Leeds almost a decade ago now was a very talented defender. He played 95 games for Leeds before joining Sheffield United and later Sunderland. 

Centre-Back: Liam Cooper

Leeds' Liam Cooper and MK Dons' Sam Gallagher in action

The first player to make this list who is still on the books at Leeds United, Liam Cooper has been attracting the interest of a number of Premier League clubs this summer. The Hull City academy graduate has grown at Leeds and is now one of the strongest central defenders in the Championship. 

Left-Back: Charlie Taylor

Leeds United's Charlie Taylor in action with Brentford's Toumani Diagouraga

Charlie Taylor is only 22, but the left-back already has 72 Leeds appearances to his name and a couple of England youth apps. Solid at the back and a threat going forward, Taylor is well worth his place in this starting XI.

Centre-Midfield: Jonny Howson

Norwich's Jonathan Howson talks to manager Alex Neil

Narrowly beating Bradley Johnson & Adam Clayton to a place in this team is Jonny Howson. The former Leeds midfielder left Yorkshire for Norwich, where he has been a regular starter for the last four seasons, three of which have been in the Premier League. 

Centre-Midfield: Fabian Delph

England's Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling during training

Arguably the standout player in this starting XI, Fabian Delph's career may have petered out a little at Manchester City, but the England international is still a quality player. He left Leeds for Aston Villa, where he eventually became a star player and club captain. He has 9 caps for England. 

Centre-Midfield: Lewis Cook

Ahmed Kashi of Charlton Athletic (L) and Lewis Cook of Leeds United in action

He may only be 19 years of age, but Lewis Cook still merits a spot in this team. He has so much natural ability and is likely to be a big success in the Premier League with Bournemouth. Despite his tender years, Cook managed an incredible 75 appearances for Leeds. 

Right-Wing: Robert Snodgrass

Mohamed Diame celebrates scoring the first goal for Hull City with Robert Snodgrass

Robert Snodgrass won promotion back to the Premier League with Hull City last season, after a difficult first campaign with the Tigers which he missed through injury and the club were relegated. A fan favourite at Leeds, the Scotland international is not the quickest but has a terrific left foot, whether that be shooting or crossing the ball, and his ability from dead ball situations is excellent. 

Left-Wing: Max Gradel

Bournemouth's Max Gradel in action with West Brom's Craig Dawson

Max Gradel missed the majority of his debut season in the Premier League through injury at Bournemouth, but showed glimpses of his undeniable talent towards the end of the campaign. The Ivorian international left Leeds United in 2011, heading to Ligue 1 where he played for Saint-Etienne, before returning to England in 2015. 

Centre-Forward: Ross McCormack

Ross McCormack celebrates after scoring the first goal for Fulham

Leeds may have received a very healthy £11 million transfer fee for Ross McCormack, but the Scotsman's continued goal scoring feats suggest they would be a far stronger team had they kept the striker. McCormack joined Leeds from Cardiff, and scored 58 goals in 154 games before leaving for Fulham.

Kasper Schmeichel, Sam Byram, Matthew Kilgallon, Liam Cooper, Charlie Taylor, Jonny Howson, Fabian Delph, Lewis Cook, Robert Snodgrass, Max Gradel, Ross McCormack. 

Tell us what you think. Were Leeds right to sell these players, and where would they be now if they hadn't?

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