Jesse Marsch is in the door at Elland Road and the hard works starts now to try keep Leeds in the Premier League. For many, the exit of Marcelo Bielsa will take some time getting over, but the Whites new American boss has made a strong initial impression.
The overall feedback seems positive on Marsch, who was quick to credit Bielsa and label him a ‘hero’ for his work at Elland Road over the last three and a half seasons. He also comes across as very self aware, with the accent of an American in English football a rare commodity, but if you bypass that and focus on what he had to say, it’s almost impossible not to like Leeds United’s new manager.
Though all the focus is on the next 12 matches and keeping the club in the Premier League, another side note is the impressive array of players Marsch has managed during his spells with New York Red Bulls, RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig. The 48-year-old oversaw a dramatic improvement in Bradley Wright-Phillips’ game in the American capital early on, with the English striker going on to become the club’s record goal scorer. Perhaps the most notable name on Marsch’s list though is current Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland. The Leeds-born Norwegian striker thrived under Marsch, scoring 28 goals in 22 matches before his move to Germany, and fast-forward a few years he is now the most sought-after striker in European football. Though Leeds signing Haaland is obviously unrealistic, there are a number of players who could potential be on the Whites radar come this summer if Marsch remains at the helm and Leeds stay in the Premier League. So with that in mind, we have listed some players below who could potential move to West Yorkshire in the summer…
We start with a player Marsch really likes. Tyler Adams is a lively defensive midfielder who made his debut under Marsch in New York at just 16. Now 23 and a regular for the USA national team, Adams has improved considerably since Marsch persuaded RB Leipzig to sign him when he became assistant manager at the German club in 2019. He would, in many ways, be perfect to fill the currently hole left by Kalvin Phillips.
Since his move to Germany, Adams has played 68 times and might be remembered for his part in helping Leipzig to the semi-finals of the 2019/20 Champions League. Though small in stature, Adams makes up for that in tenacity and has been likened to Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante. The American connection between Marsch and Adams, combined with Leeds’ need for central midfielders makes a move for him perhaps more likely than not this summer. The Whites new boss likes a big squad with plenty of options, and there is no doubting that Adams would be a good option.
Marsch signed Sesko shortly after he was appointed RB Salzburg manager in the summer of 2019. He has been playing for FC Liefering, Salzburg’s B team, where he scored 21 goals in 29 games at just 17, and now he is finding his feet in the senior team. Still only 18, the Slovenian striker is probably the Austrian clubs brightest prospect and has played 25 times this season, scoring seven and assisting seven.
Leeds got the jump on everyone when they signed Joe Gelhardt from Wigan for just £1m and though they will have to pay more to bring the man dubbed ‘the next Erling Haaland’ to Elland Road, they will have the edge given the striker’s relationship with Marsch. Again, the new Leeds boss likes a big squad and he likes young players getting a chance at the highest level, Sesko ticks all the boxes.
Another player Marsch signed quickly after he was appointed Salzburg boss in 2019 is Mohamed Camara. The Mali international is an exciting defensive midfielder who at 22 has a lot of clubs around Europe watching him. His performance in the first-leg of their Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich last month showed Camara’s ability to play at the top level.
It’s obvious straight away that Leeds’ new manager knows a player when he sees one with Camara now worth in the region of £25m. Whether the Elland Road board will back Marsch financially should safety be secured remains to be seen, but there are plenty midfield options available that would improve Leeds and this is another one.
Okafor has been transformed into a striker this season, having previously played on the wing for Marsch when he was signed in January 2020 by the American boss. At £10m he is one of Marsch’s most expensive signings, having been brought in from FC Basel. Okafor is a Switzerland international and at just 20, he is likely to be a regular for his country for many years.
There is no doubting RB Salzburg possess some of the brightest young players in world football, and Okafor is another one of them. He has 12 goals in 26 matches across all competitions this season, proving Marsch was right to sign him with his ability already evident at a young age. Okafor is another player who is likely to be linked to Elland Road this summer, again only if the Whites can avoid relegation.
A huge favourite of Marsch, Szoboszlai has been linked with clubs all around Europe. The Hungarian left winger is just 21 and possesses great talent. He made his debut at RB Salzburg in 2018 aged just 17 and he quickly became a regular. His best seasons came under Marsch in 2019 and 2020 as his electric pace, skill and technique saw him score and create many goals on the way to back-to-back league and cup doubles.
When Marsch became manager at RB Leipzig, one of the first things he did was sign Szoboszlai for £20m. He has since played every game this season for the German club and has attracted the interest of Arsenal for the last few transfer windows. Whether Leeds would have the financial capabilities to sign him is another matter, but if Raphinha leaves in the summer then the 21-year-old Hungary international could be the perfect replacement.
Another one that is likely out of range is Karim Adeyemi – but never say never. The prolific German striker shone under Marsch at Salzburg and is still banging in the goals left, right and centre for the Austrian side. Reports in Germany suggest he will join Borussia Dortmund in the summer but while nothing has been confirmed yet, there remains a chance.
At just 20, Adeyemi has already played three times for Germany, with his 18 goals this season giving him a potential value of around £40m. He is quick, clinical in front of goal and can play anywhere in attack. It would be a marquee transfer if Leeds could pull this one off, but the relationship with Leeds boss Marsch has already been formed so don’t rule this one out completely.
Now this is one from left field given Leicester only signed Daka for a club-record £27m prior to this season, but it has been a slow start for the Zambian at the King Power Stadium mainly due to his lack of game-time. With Jamie Vardy still favoured by Brendan Rodgers in the big games, Daka is becoming visibly frustrated at his lack of chances. He thrived during his time at Salzburg, scoring almost a goal every game, with Marsch the one who gave him the chance to shine early on.
The Leeds boss has a strong history of playing young players and giving them a chance to shine, and Daka is likely to still have a soft spot for his former American manager. The possibilities of this transfer happening though are quite slim, given the hefty transfer fee Leicester paid and his long five-year contract, but there is still a chance the Foxes may look to recoup some of the money they paid for Daka if this season doesn’t end well for him.
Another player who was given his first chance in professional football by Marsch is current Brighton midfielder Enock Mwepu. Like Daka, Mwepu is a Zambian international who made his debut at Salzburg under Marsch and thrived to the extent he earned a big money move to the Premier League prior to this season. He has had a decent start to life on the south coast but is by no means a certain starter in Graham Potter’s side.
The 24-year-old is a strong and agile midfielder who puts himself about and is also capable of scoring a goal or two – as Liverpool experienced with his screamer at Anfield earlier this season. Again, similar to the Daka one, this seems unlikely given he has only just signed for Brighton on a long-term deal, but the connection to his former manager could make it possible if the Seagulls are willing to sell.
Last but not least is arguably the one that is most likely to happen. Leeds had January bids of £20m and £25m turned down for USA international Aaronson, who at 21 has a bright future ahead of him. The central midfielder possesses many attributes suited to this current Leeds team and he became a regular in Marsch’s starting XI during the latter stages of his time in charge at RB Salzburg.
Aaronson has remained in Austria since and has gone from strength to strength. The obvious connection he will have with his fellow countryman and a chance to play in the Premier League will surely mean Aaronson will want the move to Leeds should they avoid the drop, meaning the only stumbling block could be his valuation. There is also the chance other clubs may come in for him, with Salzburg impressing in the Champions League this season, recently drawing the first leg of their last 16 tie against Bayern Munich.