Leeds United have been absent from the Premier League for 15 years now, and fans have seen their fair share of transfer activity in that time as their club looked to bounce back to their former greatness; some good, some bad, some terrific and some downright awful.
The likes of Kevin Nicholls, Darren Huckerby, Rachubka, Kebe, Steve Morison and El Hadji-Diouf, who are widely regarded as some of the worst signings to have arrived at Elland Road, have all failed miserably to fulfil the one purpose they were bought: top-flight promotion.
Only now are Leeds genuinely looking like they’re going to make a comeback under Marcelo Bielsa, who has finally injected some stability and sense into their recruitment process.
But how different could things have been if they had this sort of sense back in 2015 and made this one major signing?
Joey Barton – 2015
Former Leeds head coach Neil Redfearn claimed that his own departure marked the end of the pursuit for marquee signings that could have quite easily changed the fortunes of the club (source: Yorkshire Post).
Jason Shackell, Matty Phillips and Charlie Adam were amongst the names mentioned as well, but it’s rebel Joey Barton that really stuck out for us as a candidate for ‘One that got away’.
The former Manchester City, Newcastle, QPR and Marseille man was looking for his next adventure after frolicking in France for a year and West Yorkshire could well have been the place to host it had Redfearn not been shown the door (apparently).
Speaking to Radio Yorkshire (via Yorkshire Post), Redfearn claimed: “I was consulted at the end of the season by Andrew Umbers about possible signings and additions to the side. I came up with a list.
“People like Joey Barton and Jason Shackell and Matty Phillips, you know, all good players. Adam as well, who Thommo knew from Stoke City, Charlie Adam.
“These were all players that were interested. At that time, we contacted them through different sources.
“They were genuinely interested in coming to play for Leeds United, which is not difficult to sell, because it’s a top club.”
So, how different could things have been for Leeds had Barton arrived?
Well, alongside his more controversial traits Barton used to be quite the player.
He’s helped two of his previous clubs to Premier League promotion including Newcastle United (2009/10) and Burnley, where he opted to play instead of Leeds, earning a Player of the Year award in the process.
There’s no doubt he would have offered some vital experience in Leeds United’s midfield and helped provide the strong physical presence every successful club needs at that level.
You must also consider who the club were forced into signing as their only alternative…Toumani Diagouraga.
The big defensive midfielder, who now players his football for Swindon Town in League Two, managed a pathetic three appearances for the club before being frozen out and released. Which really isn’t great.
Of course, it’s always worth exploring negative impacts as well. For instance, given the string of questionable managers, fans have had to endure since Redfearn was there any guarantee that they’d survive the Premier League if Barton had been a success? Would the drop have left them in a more vulnerable position like last time?
More importantly: would Bielsa be at the club?
Joey Barton – the one that got away?