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Leeds had a masterclass with Olivier Dacourt

Leeds United had a sensational squad in the four years leading up to their 2004 relegation, and following the qualification for the Champions League in 2000, David O’Leary was seeking talent to further bolster.

His search fell upon Olivier Dacourt, who had enjoyed a decent spell with Everton before returning to his native France.

Snatched up for a club record fee of £7.2m, looking back O’Leary dubbed him one of his “best ever buys” and a “brilliant signing” with how he contributed.

Would you have sold Olivier Dacourt in 2003?





He featured 82 times across his three years at Elland Road and will be remembered by the Leeds faithful as a classy yet steely maestro in their midfield.

The Frenchman was instrumental in their run to the Champions League semi-final in 2001, providing a combative presence in the engine room alongside David Batty. O’Leary predicted he would be “ideal” for them, which is exactly what he was.

His form also earned him a string of appearances in the French national side, a promising assessment of how his time at Leeds had influenced his standing in the game.

For the price paid, which at the time may have seemed a lot, he was clearly very nearly the final piece of the puzzle as they came so close to European glory.

What would eventually force the 21-cap gem to leave was a souring of the relationship with the leadership group, as O’Leary was sacked and replaced by Terry Venables.

The two had a very public dispute, where the new manager shipped Dacourt off to AS Roma due to the club’s financial troubles. Despite his apparent quality, this poor relationship and his high value made him one of their more marketable assets.

He would be sold in just 2003, earning the club a respectable £3.3m figure in return, and would go on to win three Serie A’s and two Italian Super Cups as his career played out to great success.

Whilst he was doing this, the Whites slumped into the Championship.

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What started out as a statement signing of intent to the rest of Europe, he was shunned from the club despite being one of their better performers.

When fans think of Dacourt, he will be remembered with fondness despite how his time at the club came to an end, and it is clear that O’Leary had a masterclass with this initial transfer.