The 2022/23 campaign would see Leeds United play in European competition for the first time in 20 years.
A massive summer clearout saw no less than 26 players depart the club, either permanently or on loan. The biggest outgoing was striker Patrick Bamford, the Premier League top scorer two seasons previous, who was showing signs of fading and I allowed him to move on to Brighton & Hove Albion for a cool £20.5 million.
We also got big money for goalkeeper Simone Scuffet, who’d signed for £5 million the previous summer and let 68 goals in, but we got £18 million out of him from Arsenal. The other big exit was Harry Winks, who turned out to be a massive failure having signed in January, but we did manage to make a bit of a profit by selling him to Wolverhampton Wanderers for £14.5 million.
Young striker Kun Temenuzhkov wasn’t getting close to the first-team but we somehow managed to get £10 million for him from Genk. That meant a total incoming of £72 million during the summer.
In their place we only spent £10.25 million. However, we did pick up the outrageously exciting talent that is Brazilian striker Sidnei for just £2.8 million.
We also brought in another exciting attacker in Sofiane Vasseur, who arrived on a free transfer from Anderlecht, and picked up a couple of loanees to fill our full-back issues in Arsenal regen Adam Sumner and Chelsea’s Reece James.
Our squad is now absolutely packed with exciting young talent with 11 teenagers in the first-team squad and 18 players 21 or under.
One of the most exciting is Egyptian midfielder Ahmed Zahran, who scored five and assisted six in the previous season.
The season got off to a great start with a 4-0 thumping of Fulham with a brace from Zahran and goals from Jamie Shackleton and Rodrigo De Paul, who is now the club captain after we just about managed to stave off interest from Juventus, Valencia and Tottenham Hotspur.
De Paul then scored twice as we won 2-0 at Leicester City and Jack Clarke and Leonel Larrahondo scored in a 2-0 win over Stoke City. A 0-0 draw at West Bromwich Albion meant we went four games without conceding before drawing 1-1 at Everton thanks to centre-back Filip Todorovic’s late equaliser.
We tasted defeat for the first time as Manchester City scored two late goals to win 2-0, but bounced back by hitting four goals twice in succession to beat Brighton and Bournemouth – with Sidnei, De Paul and Clarke all scoring in both.
Another high-scoring affair saw Spurs thump us 5-2 thanks to a Memphis Depay hat-trick, then we annoyingly lost 1-0 at Chelsea with a Max Aarons own-goal.
Three consecutive league wins – in which De Paul and Clarke both scored three – followed, before another defeat at one of the big boys as we lost at Manchester United yet again. And two more defeats at home to Newcastle United then, unsurprisingly, at Liverpool took us into the league break for the early World Cup in Qatar on a really poor run of form.
We headed into 2023 in eighth place in the Premier League, four points off the European places and only six points behind Arsenal in the final Champions Cup position.
European football back at Elland Road
Leeds’ first European football in 20 years went extremely well indeed. We were drawn in a Euro Cup group alongside Dynamo Kiev, APOEL Nicosia and FC Kobenhavn, and strangely kicked it off with two games against Kiev, and won both 3-0 with De Paul bagging twice in both.
The remainder of the matches, even more strangely, were played while the World Cup was taking place but luckily we only had a handful of players called away for it. We went to Copenhagen and won 1-0 thanks to a first ever goal by Brazilian winger Marcos Aurelio then thrashed APOEL 6-2 with braces from Clarke and Sidnei and goals from De Paul and Armin Djerlek.
That sealed qualification but we made absolutely sure of it with an astonishing 11-0 victory at APOEL. Clarke got a hat-trick of goals and assists, Sidnei also scored a hat-trick, De Paul and young midfielder Sean Williams scored twice and Shackleton scored one and made two.
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