Leeds United scrapped future plans on Wilfried Gnonto, panicked in deadline day mess
Leeds United made a mess of deadline day and ended the night panicking so pulled the trigger on a Wilfried Gnonto deal that wasn’t supposed to be acted on until January.
Without a striker brought in all summer the Whites eventually signed the teenager in the dying minutes of the window on Thursday (1 September), but it shouldn’t have needed to reach that point.
There is more pressure now on the Italy international and he has cost money that may not have needed to be spent, when it is touch and go whether he will be the right answer if he is to be pressed into action immediately.
Fabrizio Romano wrote on his personal Twitter account the morning after the deal (2 September): “Leeds will pay €4.5m fixed fee plus add ons for Willy Gnonto. Sell-on clause also included. Medical already done and work permit sorted.
“Leeds decided to anticipate Gnonto deal, as revealed yesterday night — as he was a target for January.”
One for the future and not the answer to a current need certainly feels more appropriate for the now-former FC Zurich youngster.
With only a year left on his contract he would have at worst been a cheap pick-up in January but more likely was viewed as a free transfer come next summer.
Whether Jesse Marsch has adequate cover for this season will remain in question unless or until Gnonto takes to the field in a White shirt and makes an impact.
Supporters felt there was a gap in attack months ago, where Patrick Bamford’s fitness travails were a feature of last season, and Joe Gelhardt is undoubtedly talented but not immune from injury issues himself, but outside of a long and fruitless plot to sign now-AC Milan forward Charles De Ketelaere there seemed to be little urgency from United to provide cover.
With both United men already ruled out within the early weeks of the season it would have seemed a strong enough signal that a proven scorer was required, but Rodrigo’s sparkling form may have papered over the cracks.
When the Spanish record-signing himself dislocated his shoulder against Everton on Tuesday night (30 August) the hierarchy suddenly flew into action, but in admittedly wild circumstances it proved too little too late.
The manager wanted Hwang Hee-chan from Wolves, but that proved impossible, so Victor Orta flew to the Netherlands to sign Cody Gakpo, a target earlier in the summer [FootMercato] and ostensibly a winger, at some expense, before flying home alone after that fell through from a strong position.
Next came the ill-fated agreement with Bamba Dieng, again linked weeks ago, before another plane booked to bring a new player to Elland Road failed to do so, with Nice swooping in while he was at the airport to entice him away.
Even past 10pm, with the deadline fast approaching, United were desperately pushing to sign Ben Brereton Diaz from Blackburn, but as Fulham and Everton had found out earlier in the day that was too expensive to do as well.
So at the very last they scrapped their future plans for Gnonto and bought him, in a sure sign that they panicked.
If they wanted him now they could have had him before deadline day night, and the hierarchy can hardly have failed to have noticed the constant pleas from the fanbase for a new striker all summer.
They should have had a plan for one before Rodrigo was hurt, and having set about most of their business early and decisively it is even more odd that they didn’t.
Perhaps Gnonto proves to be a revelation, but he has been thrust into the squad as an immediate answer now when he shouldn’t have been.
Andrea Radrizzani had virtually everything set up, and amid the great start to the season on the pitch morale was high around the club, but despite results and the rest of the transfer window largely being solid he has managed to come out of deadline day with a confused and suspicious support in a situation that could have been avoided.
If £34million was on the table for special target De Ketelaere then the £10million that Dieng was supposed to cost on the final day could have been spared long ago, and the bewildering late drama would have been unnecessary.
In other Leeds United news, the Whites have also been accused of forcing a first team member out of the club on the final day.