After 16 years in the doldrums, those involved at Leeds could be forgiven for taking a moment to dream. On Tuesday, a few days after promotion to the top flight was confirmed, owner Andrea Radrizzani was asked about some big names.
‘(Zlatan) Ibrahimovic will certainly be difficult,’ he told Sky Sports Italy. ‘We tried to sign him in January, but he chose to join Milan and the deal vanished. ‘Now I think it’s too late, the intensity of English football is different.
‘(Edinson) Cavani could contribute with his physicality and adapt here, but I’ve never talked about him with the coach,’ Radrizzani added.
‘Having said that, we’ve certainly thought about him and we’ll see, given he’s still available on a free transfer.’
Both are blockbuster targets, the sort of names Leeds fans would have imagined in a white shirt while they were milling about in League One.
Yet neither are probably particularly realistic – with Cavani the more suited of the two.
Manager Marcelo Bielsa demands intensity from his players, and the 33-year-old Uruguayan and his 38-year-old former PSG team-mate might not have the legs to carry out his style of play.
Bielsa’s contract at Leeds is almost over but after guiding them back into the Premier League, it is expected that he will renew his deal. He’s planning to sit down with the club after the final game against Charlton to discuss an extension.
There would be little support from the fanbase for someone else replacing him, given his incredible popularity in the city. A street was named after him on Wednesday morning.
Director of football Victor Orta seemed to hint it would be easy enough in an interview with El Larguero on Tuesday night.
He said: ‘Are we going to see Bielsa on the bench for Leeds in the Premier League? Give me a week to celebrate, everything will be calm I think’.
Assuming everything remains equal and Bielsa stays, then Leeds will surely be shopping in a different market to Ibrahimovic and Cavani.
Orta will be key to that recruitment strategy. He gathers lists of targets for Bielsa’s squad and then the Argentine gives a nod in the direction of a particular name for Leeds to pursue after carrying out his own analysis.
When Leeds went after Daniel James in January 2019, for example, the desktop of Bielsa’s laptop was littered with videos of the now Manchester United man.
Without Bielsa’s approval, Leeds do not move for a player. It is that simple.
It is anticipated that Leeds will try and snap up about four to five players to complement the existing squad.
Brentford’s missed opportunity to climb into the top two at the weekend could be a major boost for Leeds, who are expected to look at the cream of the Championship.
As Sportsmail reported on Wednesday morning, they are looking to enter the race for Said Benrahma – also wanted by Chelsea – if the Bees miss out on a place in the top flight.
They are also hoping to snap up Joe Geldhart, the Wigan youngster who has been compared with Wayne Rooney, and seem to have stolen a bit of a march on Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham and Celtic.
The future of Ben White – who has started every game in the Championship – is a big question, and parent club Brighton have made it clear they want him back in the summer.
Liverpool have also tracked him extensively, but it sounds as though Leeds are going to at least have conversations over his signing.
‘Ben is going to be hugely sought after,’ said chief executive Angus Kinnear.
‘It’s one of the risks of the type of deal we did. I know supporters will wonder why there wasn’t an option to buy him but Brighton weren’t prepared to do that.
‘It was either take the player without an option or don’t take him at all. We clearly made the right decision and we have some conversations to have with Brighton as to where they see his future.
‘They rate him very highly and other clubs rate him very highly.
‘We have an advantage in that Ben loves the club and he has loved playing for the club.
‘He loves his teammates and knows he will get game time under Marcelo, so we have a small advantage. Ultimately, we are going to be fighting with some big names for his signature.’
If White, who joined on loan after being tracked for two seasons, does not return, Leeds will need a starting central defender. A serious injury suffered by Gaetano Berardi on Sunday means they need another player in that position anyway.
River Plate’s Lucas Martinez Quarta is someone they have taken a look at in that position.
When it comes to loanees, Jack Harrison has agreed to extend his temporary deal from Manchester City for another season with Leeds to hold the right to buy him next summer.
And they should snap up Illan Meslier, who covered in net during the run-in and has impressed during his loan from Lorient, on a permanent deal in the coming days.
A first-choice goalkeeper is likely to be a necessity too, with Kiko Casilla not impressing since his switch from Real Madrid. Southampton’s Angus Gunn has been mooted.
Elsewhere, Leeds know they need to pursue options to cover for Pablo Hernandez. The Spaniard was sensational this season for the Whites but at 35 his fitness has been an issue since the restart.
While he did play 90 minutes at Derby, Leeds will want to have alternatives in place. They like Emi Buendia – who has impressed for Norwich – and reports in South America overnight suggested Thiago Almada was a genuine option.
The 19-year-old Velez Sarsfield midfielder is considered a real gem for the future, and Leeds would do well to beat away some of the other clubs circling him.
He was, though, quoted by Argentinian outlet TYC Sports on Wednesday as saying: ‘I would like to be directed by Bielsa’.
Leeds have also lacked a settled left-back all season and like Yasser Larouci at Liverpool. The full-back was handed his debut against Everton in the FA Cup but the Reds are willing to let him leave for the right fee.
Decisions on players then, clearly have to be made after Wednesday’s final game against Charlton. Signings have to be made swiftly.
Even so, that dream duo of Ibrahimovic and Cavani might not be among them. Hopefully Premier League football will be enough for the Elland Road faithful.