If Brenden Aaronson, Rasmus Kristensen and Marc Roca felt distinctly gettable – the first two arriving from Jesse Marsch’s former employers and renowned selling club Red Bull Salzburg, the latter signing after just six starts in two seasons at Bayern Munich – then the next stage of Leeds United’s summer rebuild feels, well, different.
From the attainable to the ambitious.
With the Yorkshire giants expected to lose not only their prized asset but also their most gifted, creative talent in Brazil international Raphinha, this feels like the opportune moment for the Leeds board to remind an expectant fanbase that they are not in the Premier League simply to make up the numbers.
Raphinha’s impending departure, whether to Barcelona, Tottenham or Arsenal, has been held up of an example of the glass ceiling that exists between Leeds and the division’s bonafide big-hitters. But if Leeds’ succession plan is anything to go by, Raphinha’s exit will does not necessarily condemn Marsch and co to another season of treading water.
Can Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech replace Raphinha at Leeds United?
According to CBS Sports, Leeds see Hakim Ziyech as a ‘viable option’ to replace the talismanic Brazilian in Marsch’s XI. The logic is sound. Ziyech, like Raphinha, is a right-footed left winger. A highly-technical operator capable of reaching double figures for both goals and assists.
“Two years ago, I was in Holland on loan so I knew a bit about him,” says Chelsea team-mate and former Vitesse Arnhem star Mason Mount. “(Ziyech is an) amazing, world class player.”
You can’t really say the same about Cody Gakpo or Charles de Ketelaere – not yet anyway – but there is no doubting the elite-level potential of two more players on Leeds’ post-Raphinha wishlist.
According to FootMercato, Leeds have their sights firmly fixed on Gakpo; An explosive, versatile forward who, like Ziyech at Ajax, appears to have outgrown the relatively small pond that is the Dutch top-flight. Gakpo, with 21 goals to his name for PSV last term, is more effective on the left but he can also play on the right or through the middle.
Leeds plan for post-Raphinha era
In contrast to Gakpo and Ziyech, Charles de Ketelaere, the bouffanted Belgian of Brugge, is not quite a like-for-like Raphinha replacement. Elegant and ethereal, he is more of a number ten than a spring-heeled wideman. De Ketelaere’s ability to drift between the lines and provide defence-splitting passes, however, should give a Leeds side who relied too much on inspiration from out wide last season a different sort of threat in a more central role.
“To be honest with you, I think De Ketelaere could become the next (Kevin) De Bruyne,” Belgian reporter Alexandre Braeckman tells Pianeta Milan. “His vision is brilliant. He is fast, technically interesting, and he can score quite easily. He can play behind a striker, but he can also be employed as a false nine or a striker.
“His vision in making assists is incredible. De Ketelaere is a really incredible talent, an intelligent guy, also very professional. He has the mentality and the ability to become a world-class player.”
Leeds may be about to lose their A-list attacker. But the show goes on at Elland Road. And there is no reason why it can’t be just as thrilling and binge-worthy as before.