Looks can be deceiving as far as transfers are concerned, with Leeds United more aware than most that dream additions don’t always go on to make their mark once signing on the dotted line.
In more recent times, one notable flop that the Whites have had to endure is United States international, Brenden Aaronson, with the playmaker enduring a deeply underwhelming debut campaign last time out following his £24.7m arrival from Red Bull Salzburg.
Having chased the young American over an extended period of time, the midfielder did not ultimately prove worth the wait as far as those at Elland Road are concerned, scoring just once and providing only three assists in 36 league games last term.
It had initially been a bright opening to the season for the Yorkshire giants, with Aaronson helping to steer his new side to an unbeaten three-game run at the start of August, scoring in a 3-0 win at home to Chelsea.
That was as good as it got, in truth, with the 22-year-old having since been shipped off on loan to Bundesliga high-flyers Union Berlin, with Leeds likely to be ruing ever having invested in the disappointing dud.
The same can well be said for injury-prone asset, Junior Firpo, with the former Dominican Republic international having not lived up to the early billing.
Why did Leeds sign Junior Firpo?
Having enjoyed a stellar return to life in the Premier League back in 2020/21 – after securing a solid ninth-place finish in style – then-boss Marcelo Bielsa had seemingly been seeking to take his side to the next level, with dreams of European qualification likely to have been on the agenda.
With that in mind, a higher calibre of player was seemingly needed to help the Whites achieve that goal, with left-back, in particular, one area of notable concern following the departure of Ezgjan Alioski – who left on a free transfer that summer.
The latter man had been a solid performer in 2020/21 with two goals and three assists in 36 league appearances, although the North Macedonia international had opted for a change of scenery, after contributing 41 goals and assists in 171 games in all competitions over the previous four years.
Despite the blow of losing a player who had been “a good servant” to the club – according to ex-Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips – it looked as if an upgrade on the versatile asset had been made, amid the £12.8m addition of Firpo from Barcelona.
That was the verdict of pundit Kevin Campbell at the time, at least, with the one-time Arsenal man having stated after the signing had been made: “I think he will fit right into what Leeds want to do because technically he is very good, you have to be to play for Barcelona.
“I’d say defensively, he is better than Alioski as well. He hasn’t started that many games for Barcelona but you cannot read too much into that given that they have Jordi Alba ahead of him.
“He has looked good when he has played so Leeds fans, you can get very excited.”
Such rave reviews likely had the Elland Road faithful dreaming of a quality, long-term solution at left-back, yet it is fair to say it has not panned out that way in the years since.
What has gone wrong for Firpo at Leeds?
As 90min’s Scott Saunders stated following the full-back’s abject display in last season’s draw to Newcastle United – in which he gave away a penalty for a late handball – the former Spain U21 international has proven an “absolute disaster” for the club, in truth.
Just over two years on from having arrived from Camp Nou, the 27-year-old has been restricted to just 51 appearances in that time in all competitions, with just 41 of those having come from the start.
Unable to stay fit over a consistent period due to a succession of injury woes, the former Real Betis ace has offered little at either end of the pitch for Leeds, scoring twice and registering just four assists in total – a far cry from Alioski’s record.
Last season, in particular, was particularly bleak as the forgotten man helped to keep just a solitary clean sheet from his 19 top-flight appearances, chipping in with just one goal and one assist, while averaging only 0.4 key passes per game as a marker of his lack of creativity and attacking threat.
That is in stark contrast to Alioski’s final season at Leeds, for example, with the current Al-Ahli dynamo having helped to keep ten clean sheets from 36 league games, while recording five goal contributions and averaging 0.8 key passes per game – as per Sofascore.
It is then no surprise that Firpo has been lambasted by pundit Jon Newsome as a player who is seemingly just not “anywhere near good enough”, as “the fact that he doesn’t get picked week-in, week-out alludes to”.
Is Junior Firpo injured?
Having previously looked destined for a summer exit after just two seasons in Yorkshire, it remains to be seen what lies in store for Firpo once he does return from this latest setback, with current boss Daniel Farke strengthening in the left-back department with the signing of Sam Byram.
With two years still left to run on his current contract, it may be the case that the Santo Domingo-born dud remains something of a financial burden for Leeds for the foreseeable future, with it perhaps best that an exit is sanctioned in January.
That would mark a sorry end to what has been a wretched spell in English football for the forgotten man, with the aforementioned Campbell having been made to look rather silly after hyping up the defender’s signing to such a degree.
On the evidence of his stint to date, Firpo has certainly not been better than Alioski, either in defence or in an attacking sense, representing a notable transfer blunder as far as that man Bielsa is concerned.