Leeds United have made some extremely astute signings in the transfer market over the past 24 months or so, with Victor Orta’s additions of Luis Sinisterra, Raphinha, Sonny Perkins, Sam Greenwood, Joe Gelhardt, Illan Meslier and Jack Harrison all looking to have been exceptional deals for the Whites’ director of football to get over the line.
Indeed, while the additions of Perkins, Greenwood and Gelhardt were all made with Leeds’ long-term future in mind, the likes of Harrison, Meslier and Sinisterra are all attracting big-money interest after making a huge impact for the Whites, while Raphinha – who joined for £17m back in October 2020 – has already been sold on for a massive £38m profit.
However, while there is a growing list of Orta’s success stories at Elland Road, there is one player who the Spaniard reportedly decided against a move for back in 2021 who could well represent the director of football’s biggest mistake during his tenure in LS11 – Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Indeed, it was reported that Leeds, Tottenham Hotspur and Napoli were all interested in the former Dinamo Batumi winger last summer, however, with it being claimed that the 21-year-old had a price tag of £17m, only Napoli turned their interest in the forward to a concrete offer – seeing the Italian side land the Georgia international for just €10m (£9m).
And, considering just how impressive the attacker has been for Gli Azzurri so far this season, coupled with Kvaratskhelia already boasting a market valuation of £22m – 144% higher than his £9m cost – it is clear to see that Orta well and truly had a nightmare when failing to match Napoli’s bid for the winger who “football is like Disneyland for” – in the words of Leonid Slutski.
Indeed, over his seven Serie A appearances in 2022/23, the €1.7m-per-year – £29k-per-week – forward has been in astonishing form, having already scored four goals, registered two assists and created two big chances for his teammates, in addition to taking an average of 2.7 shots – 1.3 of which have hit the target – made 1.1 key passes and completed 1.4 dribbles per game.
These returns have seen the player nicknamed “Kvaradona” average a simply sensational SofaScore match rating of 7.11, currently ranking the youngster as Luciano Spalletti’s joint ninth-best performer in the top flight of Italian football – playing a key role in Gli Azzurri’s top-of-the-table standing.
Furthermore, the 21-year-old has also caught the eye over his two Champions League fixtures – against Liverpool and Glasgow Rangers – this term, having provided one assist and created one big chance for his teammates, as well as taking an average of 5.5 shots, making 1.5 key passes and completing 3.0 dribbles per game.
These metrics have seen the 19-cap international who Carlo Garganese dubbed both “unreal” and a “superstar” average a SofaScore match rating of 6.95, ranking him as Napoli’s 11th-best performer in Europe’s most prestigious club competition – proving that he is well and truly unfazed by the biggest occasions.
As such, while hindsight is a wonderful thing, Orta’s decision not to part with £9m in order to bring Kvaratskhelia to Elland Road last year very much looks to have been a horrendous mistake by the director of football, as, not only is the 21-year-old now one of the most exciting wingers in European football, but he is also likely to be one of the most valuable come the end of the season.