Leeds United release clause damage laid bare as £48million highest second-tier transfer loss in world football
The problems caused by the Leeds United release clauses this summer have been laid bare by a new report into football finances.
The 7 September release from the CIES Football Observatory shows that of the top 20 clubs with the highest net loss in transfer spending in 2023 the Whites came in 19th, just ahead of Serie A giants AC Milan.
Following relegation from the Premier League this summer they have the highest negative number of any second-tier side in the world and are the only non-top flight club on the entire list, which throws the chaos at Elland Road since the turn of the year into stark contrast, as they find themselves in a top 20 headed by Chelsea with a -€557million balance [£477.6m] after they broke the British record twice amid unprecedented spending.
Leeds’ net loss of €56m [£48m] comes after a pair of transfer windows where £35.5m record-signing Georginio Rutter [Sky Sports, 15 January] was signed in the winter along with £11m Max Wober [Sky Sports, 3 January] but didn’t prevent the club dropping out of the top flight, and an exodus this summer that proved anything but lucrative.
Following relegation it was assumed sales would lead to an influx of cash before it emerged large numbers of the Leeds United first team had release clauses in their contracts that entitled them to leave on loan for, at best, minimal returns.
Wober himself has already gone on such an arrangement, joining Robin Koch and Jack Harrison out on loan thanks to the clauses along with a host of last year’s arrivals in Marc Roca, Brenden Aaronson, Rasmus Kristensen and Luis Sinisterra.
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Thanks to dropping into the second tier Rodrigo was also sold for a small fee while Tyler Adams went to Bournemouth for a few million over his £20m release clause amid a legal dispute [The Athletic, 20 August], a situation that was followed by Sinisterra’s deadline day loan-to-buy exit to the same destination amid the threat of a similar argument.
With Daniel Farke left to field incomplete substitute benches despite naming multiple goalkeepers in the early weeks of the season it was obviously necessary to restock the squad, which has been done via a combination of buys, loans and free transfers.
Joel Piroe cost at least £10m from Swansea, in a deal that could end up being worth £16m [The Athletic, 25 August], while Ethan Ampadu from Chelsea for £7m [Yorkshire Evening Post, 17 July], Glen Kamara from Rangers for £6m [Daily Mail, 31 August], Ilia Gruev from Werder Bremen for £5m [Yorkshire Evening Post, 31 August], have all arrived, and a loan fee of £1m was paid to Tottenham for Djed Spence [Athletic, 30 August].
Victor Orta’s legacy at Elland Road may include the appointment of Marcelo Bielsa and the signing of Raphinha, but having left in May amid the chaos of the relegation season his more recent decisions appear to have only stacked up costs.
Some of the loan departures may be sold in a year to even out the numbers somewhat, but given they couldn’t keep the club in the top flight in the first place largely have to be considered unsuccessful signings, and the easy escape routes threatened to undercut Farke before he had even got started on mounting a promotion push.
While fellow relegated sides Southampton and Leicester City made big money selling the likes of Romeo Lavia, James Ward-Prowse, Harvey Barnes and James Maddison, the Whites made very little comparatively and had to work on a reduced budget to strengthen as a result.
And their place on the list in the CIES report is unique when every other side is still in the big-spending Premier League or Saudi Pro League, or named Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain, with Ligue 1’s Marseille making up the numbers.
In other Leeds United news, the club are set to spend more to pay off a former £15m signing with his contract expected to be cancelled.