With another season of European football to come at Elland Road, we headed into the 2023/24 campaign in a confident mood and with more exciting youngsters establishing themselves as first choices.
The summer of 2023 saw a fairly hefty clear-out, which included a club record sale and a club record total of incoming transfer fees.
The record sale saw 20-year-old Colombian striker Leonel Larrahondo, who’d scored 23 goals in 79 appearances since moving to the club for £2.9 million in 2020, move to Arsenal for a huge £68 million.
Fellow striker Sofiane Vasseur followed him out of the door, joining Watford for £20 million having not started a single game but scoring twice in eight substitute appearances since joining the previous summer. Several other players followed them for decent fees, including young Venezuelan striker Alejandro Marques – who was one of our few remaining non-regen players – going to Parma for £4.9 million, and Brazilian winger Marcos Aurelio going to Bournemouth for the same fee.
In total, we sold 11 players for a total of £115 million, with a whole host of young players going on loan.
In their place we brought in several exciting youngsters. Possibly the most exciting short-term was Brazilian left-winger Christopher Doro – who looked like the perfect backup to Rodrigo De Paul, who we’d convinced to sign a new contract over the summer – for £13 million from CEC.
Other exciting prospects include Giacomo Gramantieri, signed for £2.5 million from Atalanta, young English striker Steve Gibbons who, despite costing just £600k from Everton, is described as “the new Michael Owen,” and potentially world-class right-back Jonathan Markic, who cost £2.5 million from Boca Juniors.
Lots of goals to kick off the season
The season got off to a flyer with an 8-0 thumping at Zaria in the early stages of the Euro Cup, which was followed up by a 5-2 win at home. And we then dispatched Irtysh Pavlodar 9-0 on aggregate then beat Lech 7-0 on aggregate to secure progression to the group stages.
Dreamy start for Doro
The Premier League also got off to a good start with a narrow 2-1 win at local rivals Huddersfield Town, who are now managed by John Terry, thanks to goals from the ever-improving striker Sidnei and Armin Djerlek. Strangely, another away match followed and we drew 0-0 at Fulham.
But then new signing Doro scored in the first minute of his home league debut to set the way for a 3-0 win at home to Blackburn Rovers. And Doro and Sidnei were at it again as we made it three wins from four with a 2-1 win over Manchester City, who’d just signed Kylian Mbappe for £173 million – which is £5 million more than we’ve spent in six seasons at Leeds!
Two more away games followed, as did two defeats both by the same scoreline – 2-0 at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur. A 3-2 win at home to Leicester City was our only victory in six games, as it was followed by a 4-3 loss at home to Liverpool – who we still haven’t beaten and only drawn with once – and draws at Southampton and West Brom.
But we bounced back with a 1-0 win at Arsenal in the Carabao Cup then an impressive 1-0 win at home to Chelsea, in which Man City left-back loanee Paul Hecker scored an absolute screamer. But then our unpredictable side reared its ugly head in a totally ridiculous 4-4 draw at Watford, in which Doro and right-winger Jack Clarke both scored twice and we threw away 3-1 and 4-2 leads.
We then managed to beat Manchester United at Elland Road, thanks to goals from Clarke and Sidnei, before going five games unbeaten to bring 2023 to a strong end.
Our Euro Cup group saw us drawn with Zurich, Standard and PSV Eindhoven, and we had absolutely no trouble seeing them off. The campaign began with a 6-0 thumping of Zurich at home then our sternest test saw us go to PSV and win 2-0. A 1-0 win at home to Standard and then a 2-0 win in the return saw us secure qualification without conceding a goal.
With that done I turned out reserve sides for the final two games and we still won both, 2-1 in Zurich then 3-0 at home to PSV, which saw a special moment as 16-year-old youth product from the previous season Andrew Canham became Leeds and the Euro Cup’s youngest ever goalscorer.
Personal glory was also coming the way of the incredible Sidnei. By the end of December he’d already scored 25 goals in all competitions, which put him just three away from breaking the club record for most goals in a season.
That form led to Sidnei being named both World Under 21 Footballer of the Year and the European Golden Boy winner, having scored 35 goals in 49 appearances – and he’s still only 20. Unsurprisingly, Barcelona, Real Madrid and co are all lurking.