While it remains to be seen if Leeds United boss Daniel Farke has been handed the appropriate tools to be able to steer his new club to promotion this season, the Whites are likely to have benefitted from the mass clearout that occurred during the recent window.
Not every exit will have been a positive – with Rodrigo, for instance, departing after contributing 15 goals last term – yet the Yorkshire giants were able to rid themselves of a number of underwhelming assets who were culpable in last season’s demise.
Among the 15 players who were moved on to pastures new was midfield dud Marc Roca, with the Spaniard scoring just once and providing only two assists in his debut campaign at the club last term, while Rasmus Kristensen also departed on loan despite only arriving from Red Bull Salzburg a year ago.
As writer Zach Lowy noted, the disappointing defender simply “failed to make the step up from the Austrian Bundesliga to the Premier League” following his £10m move to Elland Road, having shared the same fate as teammate Brenden Aaronson, who also flattered to deceive after joining from Salzburg.
It is fair to say that the United States international was arguably one of the more frustrating or surprising failures of last season, with the 22-year-old having not hit the heights that were expected despite the huge fanfare and his initial strong start to life in English football.
How much did Leeds pay for Brenden Aaronson?
The American playmaker had been touted for a move to Leeds for an extended period prior to eventually sealing the switch in the summer of 2022, with then-boss Jesse Marsch having been chasing his compatriot in January of that year.
Not put off by their failed bids for the promising talent, the Whites made their move again ahead of the 2022/23 campaign, eventually splashing out a reported fee of around £25m in order to prise the midfielder from the Bundesliga side.
That intense, long-running interest in the 5 foot 10 starlet had been justified at the time as he had racked up 28 goals and assists in just 65 appearances in all competitions for his previous employers, including a haul of 16 goal involvements during his final season in Austria.
The hope had been that Aaronson would be able to help fill the void of former talisman Pablo Hernandez following the Spaniard’s exit the year prior, with Leeds having been in need of a new creative spark as a link between the midfield and attack.
What was said about Aaronson following his move to Leeds?
It would prove a promising start to last season for both Aaronson and Marsch’s side in general, with the one-time Philadelphia Union star having been hailed as the “standout” signing of the summer for the Yorkshire side by pundit Noel Whelan, who also went on to laud the midfielder’s qualities:
“He’s very positive with huge energy, drives forward with great technical ability – and he’s got an eye for a pass too.”
Leeds notably began the campaign in fine fettle with three wins from their opening three league games, with Aaronson scoring in the convincing, 3-0 win over Chelsea to announce his arrival in the Premier League.
That performance against the Blues earned the new man rave reviews from ex-Leeds defender Matthew Kilgallon, who stated at the time: “Really impressed with him, everything, I don’t think he’s got a weakness. He works hard, he defends well, he gets back in position early, does everything right. He looks like a good lad out there, he wants to do as well as he can.
“And he’s come into the Premier League and absolutely just taken to it so easily. Gives everything, he runs around and gives it everything. But I think we need him on there for 90. I think he’s that good.”
Also described as “relentless” by Marsch, as well as being dubbed a “fantastic young player” by pundit Owen Hargreaves, the comparisons to Hernandez began to flood in, with journalist Graham Smyth having stated in October:
“He beat four or maybe five, six, seven, 11 Palace players on his way to goal. Really lovely feet to get into the area, just days after I’d written in the Yorkshire Evening Post about the vacancy for a magic man because they used to rely so heavily on Pablo Hernandez to get them into the box and to create chances.
“We just haven’t seen anyone routinely doing it, but Aaronson really made that happen with his dribbling ability.”
Pablo Hernandez’s 2019/20 campaign by numbers
13 chances created
2.3 key passes per game
7.35 average match rating
Stats via Sofascore
While Hernandez – who was crucial to securing Leeds promotion in 2019/20 – cemented his status as a true hero with 77 goals and assists in 175 games in all competitions for the club in total , Aaronson’s early showings look to have been a false dawn…
Where is Brenden Aaronson now?
Much like Leeds’ form as a whole, Aaronson’s bright performances quickly tumbled as he struggled to maintain that early impact, ending 2022/23 having scored just once and contributed only three assists in 36 league games.
Noted as statistically the worst player in the division, the misfiring maestro was unable to replicate the form he had shown during his time in Salzburg, with it something of a headscratcher that he continued to be selected from the start week-in, week-out.
It wasn’t until the late, desperate appointment of Sam Allardyce that Aaronson finally found himself properly ousted from the side – after starting on the bench for the final six games of the season – although by that point the damage had been done, with Leeds tumbling toward relegation.
Those woes ensured that there were likely to have been few tears shed when the 34-cap international’s loan move to Union Berlin was announced, with the ‘failed’ signing somehow finding himself at a club that will be competing in the Champions League this season.
Life in the German capital hasn’t started too impressively, however, with Aaronson having notably been sent off on just his second Bundesliga appearance against Darmstadt, hardly leaving those back at Elland Road to rue their decision to let him depart.
Once deemed the heir to Hernandez, a future at Leeds now appears particularly unlikely for the New Jersey native, with it perhaps best for all parties if they properly cut ties next summer.