A Leeds United XI of players who’ve left in the last 10 years: Schmeichel, Delph…
Leeds United have not been in the Premier League since 2004 – and it’s meant they have been unable to hang on to some quite brilliant players.
Leeds boasted one of the best squads in the country in the early 2000s, but their long spell out of the top flight has understandably affected their ability to maintain their top talents.
Now more of a stepping stone for players looking to get into the Premier League, here is an XI of players the Whites have let go in the last 10 years alone.
GK: Kasper Schmeichel
Schmeichel took the long route to get back to the top and emulate his father’s title-winning heroics after leaving Manchester City.
After loan spells at Falkirk, Bury and Darlington, he joined Notts County for a year before being signed by Leeds in their first season back in the Championship in 2010-11.
The Dane played behind an unconvincing backline as Leeds just missed out on a play-off place, but when Leicester City came in for him at the end of that season, he said he wanted to stay.
Leeds felt they could do better, however, and sold him for £1million, signing Andy Lonergan as his replacement. Only one of them has won the Premier League or played at the World Cup since.
RB: Sam Byram
The young academy product was considered one of Leeds’ brightest sparks for a while and was expected to go on to bigger and brighter things when he was sold to West Ham in 2016.
At that point, he’d made over 100 appearances for Leeds, and in the Massimo Cellino era it didn’t appear the club was going anywhere fast. In other words, he could hardly be blamed for wanting to move on.
However, he’s failed to make much of an impact at West Ham, though he might have become more refined under a coach with more of a proven track record of developing young players.
He’s currently back in the Championship, on loan at Nottingham Forest, but suffered a bad knee injury early in the season and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future. He’s been unlucky with injuries.
CB: Sol Bamba
Made captain in his one season at the club, Bamba was generally one of the brighter sparks of the poor Uwe Rosler/Steve Evans campaign of 2016-17.
However, he was erratic and not massively missed when his contract was terminated by mutual consent in the early weeks of Garry Monk’s tenure.
The defence improved greatly as Pontus Jansson was signed and Kyle Bartley arrived on loan from Swansea, but Bamba went on to become a key player for Cardiff as they went up with Neil Warnock in 2017-18.
One of few Leeds defenders in recent times to go on to play in the Premier League, he’s been typically unpredictable at the top level but was the match-winner against Brighton and is a big asset to the club.
CB: Tom Lees
The academy product was viewed as great young hope for Leeds but never quite hit the level required and became something of a scapegoat as the Warnock era descended into trouble.
Now captain at Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday, he looked to have proved Leeds wrong when he helped the Owls reach the play-off final in 2016, which they lost to Hull City.
However, both player and team have struggled since, with the skipper making a number of high-profile errors and Jos Luhukay’s side in the lower reaches of the table.
That he’s amongst the best candidates of recent years shows what a dearth of top-quality defenders Leeds have had until recently, as he stands out above the likes of Giuseppe Bellusci, Scott Wootton and Jason Pierce.
Like Bamba and Byram, he wouldn’t get into Leeds’ current backline.
LB: Fabian Delph
While Delph was making a name for himself as he broke into Leeds first-team in the 2008-09 campaign in League One, his future manager Pep Guardiola was enjoying a historic season at Barcelona.
As the Catalan announced himself as one of the best coaches in the world, winning a treble in his first season in senior management, Delph was earning rave reviews as he played throughout the promotion-chasing campaign in the third tier.
While always destined for greater things, even the most optimistic pundit wouldn’t have expected Delph would play a significant number of minutes for Guardiola’s record-smashing Manchester City nine years later. Especially not as a left back.
He’s since captained England and looked Pirlo-esque as they qualified for the Nations League final four by beating Croatia.
Could easily have gotten into this midfield but has shown himself as a more than capable left-back, while Leeds have let other accomplished midfielders leave in recent times.
DM: Ronaldo Vieira
It made good financial sense for Leeds to get £7.7million for the promising youngster in the summer of 2018, especially as there was no suggestion that he’d make Marcelo Bielsa’s first-choice XI.
And there are currently no regrets as fellow academy graduate Kalvin Phillips has been a revelation at the base of midfield.
However, it would be no surprise to see Vieira become an adept ball-playing, deep-lying midfielder, too.
Still just 20, he’ll receive a hell of an education playing his football in Serie A. At Sampdoria, he’s at a club with a proven track record of developing promising young talent.
CM: Lewis Cook
The absolute diamond of Leeds’ academy in recent years, it’s a shame the intelligent, cultured young player’s time at the club didn’t coincide with the arrival of Bielsa and the exciting future ahead.
A special talent like his was wasted amongst the directionless chaos of GFH and Massimo Cellino, and it made sense for him to join a top-flight team in 2016.
At Bournemouth, Eddie Howe has shown plenty of patience with the 21-year-old and only now is using him more regularly. While his opportunities have been limited, he’s still caught the eye and was well worth his first England cap in March 2018.
It may only be a matter of time before he’s playing European football and becomes a serious contender for the central midfield role for England.
CM: Jonny Howson
The Leeds-born midfielder will always be fondly remembered for his influence in the promotion campaign from League One in 2010, while he provided the perfectly weighted ball for Jermaine Beckford’s legendary goal against Manchester United that same season.
He went on to be named Norwich’s Player of the Year in their 2015-16 Premier League campaign, having been influential in their promotion the season before.
Now at Middlesbrough, he’s a key player for Tony Pulis as the Teessiders challenge Leeds for promotion.
RW: Robert Snodgrass
One of several great signings made by Gary McAllister, alongside many others in this list Snodgrass will be fondly remembered for his contributions under Simon Grayson.
He’s since gone on to intermittently do well in the Premier League, and like Howson has flitted between the Premier League and Championship.
Now making contributions for West Ham after being written off at one point, he’s also been loved by fans of Norwich and Hull for getting them both into the top flight and doing well while they were there.
While on loan at Aston Villa he was an important player for Steve Bruce as they made the play-off final in 2017-18.
LW: Max Gradel
The Ivorian’s temper tantrum on the final day of the 2009-10 season nearly cost Leeds promotion, but he made amends with some electric performances in the following season as the club nearly managed back-to-back promotions.
Still just 30, the Ivorian’s career has gone off the rails somewhat in recent seasons, but he’s enjoyed some success since leaving Leeds, especially for Saint-Etienne, earning a reputation for a short time as one of the most dynamic players in Ligue 1.
It was considered quite the coup when newly-promoted Bournemouth managed to get his signature, but he never quite took off on the south coast and was hampered by injuries.
Now back in France, he’s been one of relegation-battling Toulouse’s best players with four goals and three assists so far this season.
ST: Chris Wood
But for one season he was on fire, as his 30 goals nearly propelled Monk’s team to the play-offs in 2016-17. It was the most goals a Leeds striker has scored since Beckford in 2010, and the most in the second tier since John Charles in the 1950s.
He’s also gone on to do more since leaving Leeds than any other striker of recent times, with his solid debut tally of 10 goals helping them overachieve to finish seventh in his first season at Turf Moor.
A sturdy if unspectacular Premier League striker.