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Brenden Aaronson summed up the short-lived Marsch era at Elland Road

Where are they now? Jesse Marsch’s 12 largely disastrous signings as Leeds United manager

Leeds United made 12 signings over the course of Jesse Marsch’s 12-month stint as manager, but few of those proved to be successful at Elland Road.

The American coach helped steer Leeds to survival when he was appointed as Marcelo Bielsa’s successor in February 2022, but he was dismissed a year later with the club sitting just above the relegation zone.

We’ve taken a look back at the 12 players Leeds brought in during Marsch’s tenure and checked in on where they are today.

Brenden Aaronson

The midfielder was originally linked with Leeds during Marcelo Bielsa’s final transfer window, which in hindsight can be read as the Red Bull/American direction the club was headed in. He eventually arrived in the summer, joining his compatriot and former boss at Red Bull Salzburg.

The £25million fee raised eyebrows, and while there were some promising signs early on he struggled to justify that outlay and looked less suited to the physical demands as his underwhelming debut season went on.

“I have a body type that’s not, I guess, a Prem-type player,” Aaronson responded in an interview with The Athletic.

”I’m not the biggest, I’m not the most physical. But I disagree that I think that it makes the biggest difference. If you look at the best players in the world, (Andres) Iniesta, Xavi, (Luka) Modric, they’re strong guys, but they’re not like Virgil van Dijk.

“I think since that last year I’ve gotten stronger because I’ve been in the weight room a lot more. I work on it every day. I try to get stronger every single day. But I think that I learned a lot more because I’ve always been the smallest one. So I’ve always had to be between the lines and be smart.

“Also, during parts of the season last year, I was trying to draw fouls around the box and people thought, ‘Oh, he’s going down too easy’. But that was just me trying to get fouls. So it’s a little bit of both. But I think I can definitely get stronger.”

The 23-year-old hasn’t fared any better out on loan at Union Berlin, where he’s made just five Bundesliga starts this season.

QUIZ: Can you name every player from the USA to score in the Premier League?

Luis Sinisterra

The Colombia international registered better numbers than Antony in his final season in the Eredivisie, yet caught a fraction of the fee that Manchester United spent on the Brazilian.

Given that, and some electric moments, there was hope that he could step into Raphinha’s shoes to become Leeds’ new talismanic wing wizard. But he ultimately wasn’t fit and available enough and he was almost entirely absent during the pivotal relegation run-in.

Sinisterra ended up forcing a move to Bournemouth on deadline day, and while he’s not set the world alight for the Cherries – five league starts, two goals, two assists – they’ve evidently seen enough to make his loan permanent. Leeds have reportedly recouped their original outlay on his signature, which has to represent decent business.

Tyler Adams

One to be filed alongside Sinisterra as a ‘what if?’ that hangs over Leeds’ relegation, the US international was probably the club’s player of the season – in part due to their form falling off a cliff when he suffered a season-ending hamstring injury.

Bournemouth triggered Adams’ £20million release clause in late August, but he mustered 20 minutes of League Cup football before suffering a recurrence of that hamstring problem.

Rasmus Kristensen

Another one that played under Marsch at Salzburg, the Denmark international struggled in his one and only season at Elland Road and can be seen as the poster boy for the Red Bull-influenced direct, narrow and frantic Red Bull style failing to get going.

Kristensen has since been loaned out to Roma, where he’s come under severe criticism. Another loanee you wouldn’t expect to see back at his parent club.

Marc Roca

The Spanish midfielder evidently had his qualities, but his patient passing style always felt incongruous in Marsch’s chaotic gameplan that never seemed fussed about recycling possession.

Roca looked particularly lost following the injury to midfield partner Adams, and he’s since been sent out on loan to Real Betis – the La Liga club look a more natural fit, and he’s confirmed that he’d like to stay.

“There is a clause like this year,” said the midfielder, via El Desmarque

“If Leeds is not in the Premier League, I can go out on loan again. Let’s see. It depends on whether they go up or not.

“They are things out of my control. I sincerely hope they go up, because of all the teams I wish them the best. I am grateful to them, I wish them the best, it has been my home, and from there we will see.”

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

Darko Gyabi

Highly regarded as a promising youngster, Gyabi arrived at Leeds as part of the deal that saw Kalvin Phillips move to Manchester City.

But he never made it beyond the fringes of the first-team squad and clocked up considerably more minutes for the Under-21s. In January, the 19-year-old joined Plymouth Argyle on loan until the end of the season.

Sonny Perkins

It was considered quite the coup when Leeds signed Perkins, who West Ham were reportedly not too happy about losing after a tribunal.

The young forward continued his development in the club’s youth ranks and hinted at making the first-team step-up when he scored a late equaliser against Cardiff in the FA Cup in January 2023.

But he never really kicked on from there and a half-season loan to Oxford United failed to ignite his career. Unable to play for a third club in 2023-24, Perkins returned to Leeds but looks extremely unlikely to play any part for Daniel Farke’s promotion-chasers.

Wilfried Gnonto

A deadline-day capture from FC Zurich, Gnonto quickly made himself look indispensable with some electric early performances under Marsch.

But the Italian’s form fizzled out in Leeds’ miserable relegation drop, and it looked like he might have burned his bridges when he put in a transfer request and reportedly refused to play amid interest from Everton last summer.

Gnonto ended up staying put, kept his head down, and has been patient for further opportunities while being kept out of the XI by an in-form Dan James. But he’s taken his chance to impress, with four goals in his last four starts – and rumours that a contract renewal is imminent. Some turnaround.

Joel Robles

A much-needed experienced back-up to Illan Meslier, Robles spent most of the 2022-23 campaign as a bench-warmer – but he was eventually brought in for a run of games by Sam Allardyce when Meslier’s confidence looked shot.

Robles was unable to make much of a difference and quietly departed on a free at the end of last season. He’s currently turning out for Saudi second-tier outfit Al-Qadsiah.

Weston McKennie

The Juventus loanee made just one appearance under his American compatriot, a dismal 1-0 away defeat to relegation rivals Nottingham Forest, before Marsch was sacked. Things never really picked up from there, and McKennie himself admits he wasn’t at his best during his forgettable half-season stint.

“I didn’t have the best performances,” McKennie reflected in an interview with Sky Sports Italy. 

”I felt I let certain people down. But at the end of the day, when I came back, I think it was important for me in general to have an experience like that, to have that happen to me at this moment of my career, because when I came back it felt like I was coming back here for the first time again.”

McKennie has bounced back – no pun intended – from the Leeds’ fans chants of “you fat b*stard” with an uptick in form for Juventus this season, although their title charge has fallen away in recent weeks.

Max Wober

Yet another player that came and went before being loaned out, Wober was a popular figure upon his arrival in January 2023, helping to shore up the defence albeit not enough to keep Leeds up.

The Austrian then exercised the clause in his contract that allowed him to go out on loan rather than play for the club in the Championship. By all accounts he’s doing pretty well for Borussia Monchengladbach, raising the possibility of a permanent move to the Bundesliga and Leeds recouping the £11million on their investment.

Georginio Rutter

Leeds’ record signing at £36million, Rutter’s first six months in Yorkshire were a total head-scratcher. He played 99 minutes under Marsch, 203 minutes under Java Gracia and just 30 minutes under Sam Allardyce. The French forward never made any kind of impact in the relegation battles and you had the feeling that three successive managers didn’t know what to do with him.

Rutter might not have been what Marsch’s Leeds needed at that moment, but he’s been a revelation in their bid to return to the top flight. He’s been a chance creation machine and notched six goals and 11 assists in the Championship this season. Most importantly of all, he’s brought the fun factor back to Elland Road.

There was never any suggestion that Rutter wanted to jump ship after relegation, unlike so many of his team-mates, even amid interest from the likes of Borussia Dortmund. For that, and being a born entertainer, he’s becoming a proper fan favourite this season.


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