Despite Leeds United losing the services of their talismanic central midfielder Kalvin Phillips in the summer transfer window, Victor Orta looks to have replaced the 26-year-old relatively well in his additions of both Tyler Adams and Marc Roca.
Indeed, the duo have impressed this season, with Roca averaging a SofaScore match rating of 7.07 over his six Premier League fixtures, while Adams has averaged a SofaScore match rating of 7.00 over his own six outings in the league – with these returns seeing the duo rank as the Whites’ fourth and fifth-best performers in the top flight of English football so far in 2022/23.
However, there is one player who has been heavily linked with a move to Elland Road ever since Leeds’ return to the Premier League back in 2020 who, in the time since, has proven that he could well have been an even better option for Jesse Marsch in the heart of his side – that of Atletico Madrid midfielder, Rodrigo de Paul.
Following a season in which the 28-year-old scored seven goals, registered six assists and created an enormous 17 big chances over his 34 Serie A appearances of Udinese Calcio, Orta was reported to have submitted a €35m (£30.5m) bid for the Argentina international, only for the Italian side to reject the Whites’ advances – demanding €40m (£35m) to part with De Paul.
This is a figure the Spanish director of football failed to reach, seeing the midfielder remain at the Dacia Arena for one more season, during which the 41-cap star once again shone, scoring nine goals, providing nine assists and creating 20 big chances over 36 Serie A appearances, with these returns seeing the playmaker average an incredible SofaScore match rating of 7.53.
Not only did these returns see the player who Julio Velazquez claimed “could play in any club in the world” rank as the second-best player in the league in 2020/21 – ahead of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – but they also convinced Atletico Madrid to part with €35m (£30.5m) to bring the midfielder to Spain the following summer.
Since this move, De Paul has only flourished further, scoring four goals and registering two assists over his 48 appearances for Diego Simeone’s side last season, as well as already having bagged one goal and provided one assist over six LaLiga fixtures in the current campaign – with these metrics seeing the 28-year-old currently boast a market valuation of £52.5m.
As such, Orta’s decision to not raise his offer for the £113k-per-week talent by around £4.5m has not only seen Leeds miss out on one of Europe’s most exciting and talented forward-thinking midfielders, but also a potentially significant payday – with De Paul currently being worth 50% more than the £35m figure the Whites could have landed him for back in 2020.