Ranking all 68 of Victor Orta’s signings at Leeds from worst to best

·20-min read
Leeds United's Raphinha celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match at Elland Road, Leeds. Picture date: Saturday September 25, 2021. Credit: Alamy
Leeds United's Raphinha celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match at Elland Road, Leeds. Picture date: Saturday September 25, 2021. Credit: Alamy

To say that Victor Orta had a mixed transfer record as Leeds United’s sporting director would be the understatement of the century.

Orta was at Elland Road for almost six years, and in that time they’ve made signings that went from the sublime to the ridiculous. He was responsible for the appointment of Marcelo Bielsa, as well as the less successful quartet Thomas Christiansen, Paul Heckingbottom, Jesse Marsch and Javi Gracia.

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The 44-year-old Spaniard helped steer the club to the Premier League after 16 years away, but he’s also been responsible for the club suffering relegation battles in back-to-back seasons.

“I am deeply saddened by the way that this chapter closes as Victor has been responsible for some of the best moments of my time as owner of Leeds United and I thank him and his people for all they have done in the past six years,” chairman Andrea Radrizzani said in a club statement.

“However, it is clear that it is time to change direction and therefore we have agreed that Victor will leave the club.”

Here’s our ranking of all 68 players Orta signed while serving as Leeds sporting director. We’ve included the youth team signings that have gone on to make competitive first-team appearances, as well as a few notable senior players that failed to actually feature for the club.

With an eclectic mix of big-money marquee signings and fresh-faced youth teamers bought for pennies, we’ve judged these players on a number of factors – value for money, how they’ve lived up to expectations, and influence (for better or worse).

68. Jean-Kevin Augustin

Three appearances. Forty-nine minutes played. Fourteen touches. Five passes. Two protracted legal cases. A total cost of £40million.

Not only the worst signing under Orta, but the worst signing in Leeds United’s history. And a strong argument he’s the worst signing at any club, anywhere, ever.

67. Kiko Casilla

Let’s not go there.

66. Laurens De Bock

Emphatically not the left-back Leeds fans were hoping for.

65. Weston McKennie

The USA international has a chance to redeem himself under Big Sam, but if Leeds suffer the drop one of the abiding memories will surely be of the Juventus loanee disinterestedly strolling about and leaving mammoth gaps in midfield.

Nothing short of a disaster as Leeds conceded 23 goals in the calendar month of April 2023. And there’s reportedly an obligation to buy him for £34million if they avoid relegation.

64. Ouasim Bouy

A total head-scratcher, Bouy signed from Juventus in the summer of 2017 but never made an appearance and spent four years on the club’s books.

The latter two years Bouy wasn’t even loaned out, he just sat around collecting wages – money down the drain.

63. Georginio Rutter

Let’s not write him off just yet. Rutter may yet come good and prove to be a sound investment, but his club-record(!) transfer from Hoffenheim in January was the height of hubris.

The 21-year-old has been deemed too raw to play any kind of role as Leeds fight desperately for survival, begging the question of whether £35.5million might have been invested better elsewhere.

62. Felix Wiedwald

Supposedly half-decent in the Bundesliga for boyhood club Werder Bremen, he must’ve sent his twin over to Elland Road. Weidwald had all the presence of an apparition between the sticks during his time at Leeds.

61. Vurnon Anita

A solid enough player for Newcastle United, particularly as Rafael Benitez led them to promotion to promotion from the Championship in 2016-17.

A total passenger for Leeds. At least he was free.

60. Matthew Pennington

These days the former Everton loanee is turning out in League One for Shrewsbury Town. Sounds about right.

59. Jay-Roy Grot

These days the former Netherlands youth international is turning out in Japan for J League club Kashiwa Reysol. Sounds about right.

58. Izzy Brown

Recently announced his retirement at the age of 26, it’s a shame that Brown wasn’t able to put his injuries behind him during his year at Leeds.

57. Jack Clarke

The academy graduate looked full of promise when first breaking through under Marcelo Bielsa, while selling him to Tottenham for £10million has proven to be brilliant business.

“Bye Jack / Hi Jack,” was how Leeds announced his loan return in the summer of 2019. Unfortunately, that amounted to just one 19-minute substitute appearance, kicking off a lost couple of years of unsuccessful loans.

Has since refound his mojo at Sunderland.

56. Pawel Cibicki

A pointless answer if there ever was one.

55. Lewis Baker

Good things were expected of the one-time Chelsea wonderkid, but he struggled to force his way into Bielsa’s midfield and was recalled midway through his season-long loan.

54. Yosuke Ideguchi

“If he stays with us, I will do everything I can to help him as I did until now,” Bielsa said shortly after taking over, diplomatically doing his best when asked by a hopeful Japanese journalist about the role Ideguchi could play.

“He’s a very valuable professional. He dignifies the Japanese people and I have a deep admiration for Japan.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough and the midfielder quietly left after failing to make a competitive appearance.

53. Kun Temenuzhkov

Filled out the academy ranks for a bit before featuring in an FA Cup defeat at QPR.

52. Hugo Diaz

*Carlo Ancelotti face* Who?

51. Daniel James

Leeds finished ninth – two points behind Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal – in 2019-20. Then they signed Daniel James.

Admittedly, it’s ridiculously harsh to lay that blame squarely at the door of the scatty Welsh winger, but the recruitment in the summer of 2021 can be pinpointed as the start of Leeds’ downfall under Orta.

50. Junior Firpo

See above. The only other first-team signing that summer, Firpo arrived from Barcelona and was supposed to be the answer at left-back. He wasn’t.

49. Rasmus Kristensen

Exhibit A in how Project Red Bull Leeds failed miserably.

48. Joel Robles

It’s perhaps a little cruel to judge Robles unfavourably given his lack of minutes, but the fact he’s not been entrusted to step up while Meslier has suffered a costly drop in form demonstrates he’s not quite fit the brief required from a backup ‘keeper.

47. Pierre-Michel Lasogga

Responsible for this classic piece of fan footage, if nothing else.

46. Jamal Blackman

Bailey Peacock-Farrell was in desperate need of usurping during the 2018-19 campaign. It was hoped that 6’5″ Chelsea loanee Blackman could be the antidote, but a broken tibia suffered during an Under-23s outing put pay to that.

45. Caleb Ekuban

The striker only scored two goals in 21 appearances for Leeds, which isn’t a brilliant ratio.

44. Brenden Aaronson

Another not to be written off just yet, Aaronson started life at Leeds brightly enough. Having picked the pocket of Edouard Mendy to score the opener in a 3-0 win over Chelsea back in August, there was optimism that Marschball might just work with the energetic young American playing a key role.

But that early-season win proved to be a false dawn and as the Marsch project failed, Aaronson has looked lost and lightweight. The 22-year-old getting frequently outmuscled has been among the more vexing recurring images of the disastrous 2022-23 campaign.

At £25million, Aaronson is beginning to look like a costly error.

43. Liam McCarron

Brought in from Carlisle to help fill out the youth ranks, McCarron made one first-team appearance – a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal – and was subsequently sold to Stoke City. Shrug.

42. Madger Gomes

The Liverpool academy graduate featured in a couple of League Cup wins for Leeds shortly after arriving in 2017, but that was about it. As above.

41. Jordan Stevens

The winger made a handful of appearances in Leeds’ 2018-19 promotion-winning campaign but never looked likely to make a full-on transition from the Under-23s. Joined Barrow on a free transfer in 2021.

40. Ryan Edmondson

Signed from York to bolster the academy ranks, Edmondson was prolific at youth level and once thought to be the answer to Leeds’ goalscoring woes – prompting a lengthy riposte from Bielsa about why he wasn’t giving the youngster more chances.

He’s now at League Two side Carlisle United, so Bielsa can probably feel vindicated on that front.

39. Andy Lonergan

The veteran journeyman ‘keeper was less than convincing in his second spell at Elland Road in 2017-18, but he was free and better than Wiedwald.

38. Mateusz Bogusz

“He’s probably going to be better than me,” once said his Polish compatriot Mateusz Klich. With some eye-catching displays for the Under-23s, Bogusz showed plenty of promise but never quite made the step up.

Having previously spent time out on loan at Ibiza, he’s now turning out for MLS side Los Angeles FC. Alright for some.

37. Leif Davis

Blessed with electric pace, the Wallsend Boys Club’ alumni showed glimpses he might’ve been capable of competing for the left-back slot and never quite could.

There was always the sense that Davis would’ve benefitted from a regular run-out elsewhere, as has proven to be the case after leaving Leeds last summer, having played a starring role in Ipswich Town’s promotion from League One.

36. Stuart McKinstry

The Athletic’s Phil Hay picked out McKinstry as one to watch back in 2020 but it remains to be seen whether he’ll fulfil that potential. Currently out on loan at Motherwell.

35. Diego Llorente

Signed following promotion, Llorente’s debut season at Leeds was marred by injury but he eventually recovered and looked a quality addition as Bielsa’s men ended the 2020-21 campaign in style.

Unfortunately, that short run was as good as it ever got for the Spain international. His ungainly running style admittedly didn’t help his reputation, but he was often culpable as Leeds shipped an ungodly amount of goals since the summer of 2021.

Not the be-all and end-all of Leeds’ defensive woes – the rot hasn’t stopped since Llorente has been loaned out to Jose Mourinho’s Roma – but it’s difficult to argue that the £18million paid to Real Sociedad was money well spent.

34. Kristoffer Klaesson

The Norwegian didn’t concede in his one and only Premier League appearance for Leeds, so that’s something.

Signed for a modest £1.6million, Klaesson is fine as a squad option but has never quite established himself as a viable alternative to Meslier – something the club have lacked in recent years.

33. Aapo Halme

Signed for a small fee, barely played, sold for a small fee.

Entirely forgettable but at least he gave us this moment from Alioski.

32. Ian Poveda

Signed as a prospect from Man City’s academy, it appears increasingly unlikely that Poveda will be the next Jack Harrison.

But he seems a good egg and his beaming smile on the periphery of Leeds’ 2019-20 promotion celebrations remains an enduring image. Still on Leeds’ books, expect Poveda to find his way elsewhere – probably as a half-decent Championship winger.

31. Hadi Sacko

The attacker predated Orta but signed on a permanent deal after he became sporting director.

Sacko wasn’t great – or even good – but he offered a sense of fun and unpredictability in an otherwise forgettable time.

Square it, Hadi.

30. Barry Douglas

Having won promotion with Wolves, there was hope that Douglas was the answer to Leeds’ long-running nightmare at left-back.

Reader, he wasn’t. By no means abysmal, but certainly not brilliant.

29. Eddie Nketiah

The striker scored some important goals in his half-season at Elland Road, demonstrating some lethal fox-in-the-box instincts, but Bielsa always preferred Patrick Bamford for his all-round game and ability to lead from the front.

If Arsenal hadn’t recalled him midway through the 2019-20 campaign, Leeds might’ve avoided the whole Augustin debacle. Sigh.

28. Tyler Roberts

Subject to great ire from the more frothing elements of Leeds’ online fanbase, Roberts tried hard and contributed at times but just didn’t have the quality or composure to stake a convincing first-team claim.

The Wales international only cost £2.5million, so expecting him to flourish into a world-beater was always fanciful. Did a job.

27. Sam Greenwood

Signed from Arsenal’s academy for a fee believed to be £1.5million, Greenwood hasn’t quite flourished into the striker some expected him to become.

But he’s proven useful enough, and versatile, adapting his game to do a job in midfield. He did a competent job in the centre of the park in Leeds’ nail-biting final-day victory at Brentford, which kept Leeds up.

But you imagine that if he’s to ever get regular minutes, he’ll have to move on – probably to the Championship.

26. Samu Saiz

One of Orta’s first signings in the summer of 2017, the Spanish forward was electric in the early months of his time at Elland Road but faded away and never looked the same player after serving a six-match ban for spitting.

Saiz showed some flashes under Bielsa and might’ve become a Leeds great had he knuckled down and kicked on. But his heart lay elsewhere after he returned to Spain to sign for Getafe in January 2018. A classic ‘what if?’ signing.

25. Helder Costa

Part of the Bielsa promotion-winning team, Costa played a part in the build-up to Pablo Hernandez’s iconic winner at Swansea City and as such will always be a small part of Leeds United folklore.

The winger was a regular starter but wasn’t one of the leading lights of that team and has since been sent out on loan. With an obligation to sign him for £16million after going up, that hasn’t proven value for money.

The 29-year-old is currently out on loan at Nuno Espirito Santo’s Al Ittihad and you’d be surprised if the club recoup more than a fraction of their outlay on his signature.

24. Leo Hjelde

The imposing teenage defender was brought in from Celtic’s academy and has since been loaned out to Rotherham. One to watch next season.

23. Lewis Bate

A highly-rated addition from Chelsea’s academy, the jury remains out on where exactly is Bate’s true level. A talented prospect, either way, and it will be interesting to see what’s next after he impressed out on loan at Oxford. 

22. Cody Drameh

One of many teenagers brought in for a tiny fee, Drameh’s value has skyrocketed during his time on Leeds’ books. With only a handful of first-team appearances, that’s largely thanks to his exceptional performances out on loan at Cardiff and – currently – Luton.

Time will tell whether he’s the true saviour of Leeds’ right-back woes or will forge his career path elsewhere. Either way, he’s a lucrative asset.

21. Darko Gyabi

Signed from Manchester City as Kalvin Phillips moved in the other direction, Gyabi has perhaps been a little too young and raw to make a difference to Leeds’ current midfield predicament.

But he looks like a fantastic prospect and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him break through to become a first-team regular in the coming years.

20. Robin Koch

The fact that Koch went from regular Germany international to failing to get a call-up tells you something about how his three seasons with Leeds have gone. Either sidelined or part of a defence that have shipped goals by the bagful, his track record isn’t exactly sparkling.

But you can’t help escape the feeling there’s probably a decent centre-back there if Leeds can find the right alchemy. And he’s arguably been the best of a bad bunch in defence in 2022-23.

19. Marc Roca

Having arrived from Bayern Munich, Roca has shown he has the ability to be a really classy operator in the right circumstances at Leeds.

Unfortunately, Leeds have looked a dysfunctional mess in his debut season and the Spaniard has frequently struggled to make himself useful, looking particularly bewildered without the more physical presence of Tyler Adams alongside him.

An inability to make it through 90 minutes without looking knackered is also a concern.

18. Adam Forshaw

Signed from Middlesbrough midway through the 2017-18 campaign, Forshaw has been a really useful squad player when available but suffered rotten luck with injuries.

There’s an alternate reality out there where he’s clocked up over 200 appearances as a stalwart of Bielsa’s favoured midfield.

17. Pascal Struijk

His stock has fallen amid Leeds’ struggles over the past year or two, but Struijk looked like a very promising defender when first breaking through from the youth team – having arrived from Ajax for a small fee back in 2018.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Struijk realise his potential with a regular run in a better-organised backline.

16. Rodrigo

The Spain international broke a 20-year transfer record when he arrived at Leeds following their promotion in 2020 and has largely spent his three years in Yorkshire struggling to live up to his £26million price tag.

He looked an awkward fit in the high-pressing style favoured under Bielsa and took time to kick on under Marsch.

There remains an argument that Rodrigo isn’t the complete package, but he’s scored 11 goals in 2022-23 and has been the only player in the squad with that kind of vital dead-eyed finishing ability.

Still, at the age of 32, there’s little resale value as he approaches the final year of his contract. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but funds might well have been better invested in a younger player with a different profile.

15. Max Wober

Leeds’ baffling business in the January 2023 transfer window was a missed opportunity to turn a corner. But Wober appears a solid addition.

14. Mateo Joseph

It remains to be seen whether Joseph will kick on to become a senior regular at Leeds, but he’s been exceptional in the youth ranks. A very sound investment.

13. Sonny Perkins

As above.

12. Joe Gelhardt

Leeds wouldn’t still be a Premier League club were it not for Gelhardt’s inspired interventions in the knife-edge 2021-22 run-in.

Signing the teenager for just £1million from beleaguered Wigan Athletic looked a steal at the time and has since proven the case. But he hasn’t quite kicked on as some have hoped – a loan to Sunderland looked for the best after he struggled to nail down a regular first-team place.

11. Tyler Adams

Signing players from Red Bull clubs has been a questionable strategy at best (see above), but USA international Adams appears to have the tools to remain a useful asset long after binning off Marschball.

The 24-year-old has added some much-needed bite to Leeds’ midfield following the departure of local hero Kalvin Phillips, while the diabolical drop in form of late has coincided with his spell on the sidelines.

A strong argument that he’s been Leeds’ best player in 2022-23 – and evidently irreplaceable.

10. Crysencio Summerville

Signed as a teenage prospect from Feyenoord for a fee of just £1.3million, Summerville has progressed into a first-team regular. A very talented player and an absolute steal.

9. Luis Sinisterra

The Colombia international has scored seven goals in 2022-23, which is a more than respectable return considering the stop-start injury-ravaged nature of his debut campaign.

Potentially a Raphinha-esque game-changer if fit and available, the £21million paid to Feyenoord for his services looks a bargain.

The picture might look quite different right now had he been fit and available to start every week.

8. Illan Meslier

He’s seemingly going through a crisis of confidence at the minute, with a series of costly mistakes in Leeds’ battle against the drop, but it shouldn’t be forgotten how good Meslier is at his best – capable of outrageously spectacular saves.

Still only 23 with well over 100 appearances under his belt, the £5million Leeds paid Lorient remains a bargain. Needs to be taken out of the firing line at present, though.

7. Ezgjan Alioski

Admittedly erratic, Alioski nevertheless remains the best left-back Leeds have had over the past decade.

He’s still not been sufficiently replaced. A proper cult hero.

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

READ: 12 of Gjanni Alioski’s best, worst and maddest moments at Leeds United

6. Patrick Bamford

Bamford’s many detractors may suggest that only one of his five seasons at Elland Road was an unqualified success.

Had he been more clinical, Bamford might’ve doubled his tally of 16 goals in the promotion-winning 2019-20 season, but his ability to lead the line was crucial to Bielsa’s gameplan and Leeds going up as champions.

The striker’s time at the club has been blighted various spells with injuries but his sensational 17-goal haul for newly-promoted Leeds in 2020-21 even earned him a well-deserved England debut.

5. Wilfried Gnonto

Questioned whether he was “Premier League ready” by Marsch, there was a stroke of luck to Gnonto’s arrival – he might never have signed had Senegalese striker Bamba Dieng not rejected the club on deadline day.

The 19-year-old Italy international has offered a bright spark in Leeds’ dismal 2022-23 campaign.

It seems difficult to believe he only cost £4million from FC Zurich. He’ll go for several times that if the time comes to move him on, be it sooner or later.

4. Jack Harrison

The forward spent three successive seasons on loan from Manchester City before signing for a fee in the region of £11million.

Harrison has frustrating at times but has shown great improvement over his time at Elland Road and has notched 20 goals and 16 assists in 103 Premier League appearances for the Whites.

One of the most reliable attackers of the Orta era.

3. Ben White

It was only a loan, but what a loan.

White arrived at Elland Road as a promising youngster and quickly established himself as one of the best defenders to ever play in the Championship.

One of the gems of Bielsa’s promotion-winning side. Leeds tried in vain to sign him on a permanent deal in the summer of 2020 – it was clear then that White was destined for the very top.

2. Mateusz Klich

Leeds Legend.

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

READ: An ode to Mateusz Klich, the beating heart of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds

1. Raphinha

Signing a player of Raphinha’s quality as a newly-promoted side was quite frankly ridiculous. He dazzled as Leeds finished ninth in their first season back and was the difference-maker as they avoided the drop by the skin of their teeth in year two.

He made Leeds a healthy profit – albeit arguably not enough – when he departed last summer and has since underlined his excellence by representing Brazil at the World Cup and starring in Barcelona’s march to the La Liga title.

The most talented player Leeds have had since their days in the Champions League over two decades ago.

READ NEXT: Arsenal & Leeds used to kick f*ck out of each other and even Wenger loved it

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every player to appear for Leeds under Marcelo Bielsa?

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