In a bid to get promoted from the English Championship, Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa took some risks. Players were moved on, and loan signings were made with expensive purchase agreements. The likes of Jean-Kevin Augustin will have stung the club. However, another deal made that promotion season was a deal to take Helder Costa from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The deal was a loan with an obligation to make the deal permanent set to certain conditions. However, the player struggled in his first season in the top-flight and soon looked a player more suited to the Championship. The deal was made permanent, though, and Leeds lost a valuable part of their budget to over-pay for a bit-part squad player. Such is the risk with loan deals with obligations.
If that was not a headache enough, the news that Costa will likely be returning to the club is a concern. Costa is on loan at Valencia in Spain, and has really struggled to live up to expectation. Leeds used the spare squad gap to get Dan James, who himself has been a bit of a letdown in his own regard.
Costa has failed to really fire for Valencia despite playing on a regular basis. The winger has been typically inconsistent and ineffective at the highest level. Valencia, then, have no desire to make the deal permanent – leaving Leeds with a tough decision to make this summer.
Do they let the player go out on loan again? Or do they try and sell him and get as much as they can for what has been a relative flop?
Or, do they see if the way that the new coach, Jesse Marsch, plays the game and see if it suits Costa better than what Bielsa had demanded?
Should Helder Costa be sold or stick around at Leeds?
Given the massive cut that would be needed to sell the player, paired up with the likely wage subsidy that would be needed, it is hard to justify such a move. Leeds need to be smart this summer, and with so many signings to make not every squad place will be filled. The club needs to be intelligent with how it raises funds, too, and selling Costa at a big loss whilst paying at least some of his wages would be ill-advised.
It is likely that he will return to Leeds, given his performance was described by the Spanish press as ‘irrelevant’, but Leeds might find it is better to hold onto the player for one more season. A fee of around £16m was lost to pay for him, but he could at least provide some pace and spring off the bench for Marsch.
While he lacked the tactical discipline to handle the chaotic football that Bielsa employed, Marsch is a touch more typical in his approach. As such, Costa could find that he is better off sticking around at Leeds for one more year to see if he can crack the code under a new manager. Given his form at Valencia it is unlikely, but it is better than carrying an expense on the books for a player not even present.
If nothing else, he is a body in a squad that needs as many bodies as it can get given the injury issues at Leeds.