Championship

Profit Players: QPR’s Toni Leistner has shown that free transfers can represent fantastic value

This article forms part of our Profit Players feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at how well a player has fared since being signed or sold, using statistical figures and statements from pundits to prove how good of a deal the club managed to achieve.

When Toni Leistner was released by Union Berlin at the end of the 2017/18 season, it wasn’t a new experience for the 6 ft 4 (1.9m) German centre-back.

He was let go by his first club Borea Dresden in 2010 to join Dynamo Dresden, who let him leave on a free transfer for Union Berlin four years later. [via TransferMarkt]

Despite playing for four clubs in his homeland (he also had a loan spell at Hallescher FC), Leistner had never commanded a transfer fee, a record he continued when signing for QPR on a free transfer in 2018.

When a 28-year-old centre-back with zero top-flight experience comes to a club on a free transfer, the news might not set many pulses racing, but Leistner quickly won the approval of then-manager Steve McClaren, who hailed the German’s communication skills in pre-season.

He told qpr.co.uk: “We have said to the team about the importance of communication. We want them to talk, talk, talk, to make their job easier and you can see that from Toni, you see it from Lynchy [Joel Lynch]. You can’t play silent football. You need vocality and we got that.”

Leistner didn’t have to wait too long for his first goal at the club, which came in a 1-0 win at Reading in October 2018 and maintained his record of scoring in a league campaign for the fifth season in a row.

He made 43 Championship appearances in his first season in west London and scored twice, while he had the highest average WhoScored.com rating of any QPR player across 2018/19.

He ended the campaign with match averages of 4.2 successful aerial duels, 1.4 successful tackles, 1.4 interceptions and 6.7 clearances, topping the latter metric among the R’s squad. [via WhoScored]

This season he has continued to demonstrate his considerable value to Mark Warburton’s side from the heart of defence, featuring in nine Championship matches and has started seven of those. [via WhoScored]

His average of 4.4 successful aerial duels per game is the highest in QPR’s squad in 2019/20, a figure helped in no small part by the 12 he won in a towering display against Millwall last month.

Also, his match average of 1.9 interceptions is surpassed only by Yoann Barbet with 2.1 per game, while his 3.3 clearances per game is bettered only by Grant Hall with 3.9. [via WhoScored]

He has been getting plenty of praise from the R’s faithful, with many of the club’s fans commending his performances against Millwall and West Brom in particular last month.

Like everyone else who came to the club in summer 2018, Leistner did not cost QPR a transfer fee, but he has proven to be a tremendous signing with his fantastic ability in the air and consistency of clearing the ball out of defence.

QPR fans, do you feel that Leistner has been one of the best free transfers made by the club? Tell us what you think by commenting below!

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Profit Players: QPR’s Toni Leistner has shown that free transfers can represent fantastic value
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