Marching On Together: Part 13 – Sterling Efforts

Leeds United had reached heady heights heading into the 2024/25 campaign, with our Euro Cup success leading us into the Champions League and a +£300 million transfer budget at our disposal.

We began the Summer by selling off a few players that weren’t quite cutting it. This saw midfielder Alessandro Cortinovis move to Derby for £6 million, while right-back Max Aarons received a £12.5 million from Tottenham Hotspur, which I couldn’t refuse after he averaged just 6.83 the previous season.

But the major departure was club captain Rodrigo De Paul, who’d been usurped by Christopher Doro in the previous season, so we allowed him to move to Sassuolo for £12.5 million. We brought in a total of £43 million, with Filip Todorovic, Reece Devine and Rhian Brewster also being sold.

But the major transfer news was incomings. I decided to take a break from my transfer policy of young players when a certain Raheem Sterling became available for transfer. We splashed £28 million up front, with an additional £30 million based on appearances.

Sterling 2024

We also brought in more youth by spending a club transfer record fee of £40 million on Brighton central midfielder Pete Dewhirst, then brought in exciting Brazilian attacking midfielder Cristino for £16.75 million.

Dewhirst 2024

Cristino 2024

In total, we spent £87 million to strengthen for the new season, bringing in several more potentially exciting youngsters.

The season got off to a great start as we thumped Fulham 4-0 thanks to a fine hat-trick by Jack Clarke, and a fourth from Sidnei, with Sterling enjoying an excellent debut.

Leeds 4-0 Fulham

We then took on Real Madrid as we took part in the European Super Cup. We put up a good fight but Madrid got a bit lucky as Andreas Christensen scored the only goal of the game in the 92nd minute.

That was followed by a trip to the Etihad Stadium, which saw us thumped 4-1 by Manchester City, who’d just blown £190 million on Leon Bailey, Justin Kluivert, Filip Benkovic and Nikola Milenkovic during the transfer window – despite Sterling getting his first goal for the club against his former club inside five minutes.

But that was followed by a strong run of eight straight league wins that saw us top of the league after ten matches. This included a 3-2 win over Spurs, with a brace from Sidnei and a goal from Doro, as well as our first ever victory over Liverpool at the 12th attempt with Doro and Sidnei again scoring the goals.

Leeds 2-0 Liverpool

Prem 10 games

Sidnei and Sterling were both in fine form, with Sterling scoring in three games in a row then Sidnei winning the Player of the Month in both August and September.

November began with a 1-0 loss at Arsenal, which brought an end to our winning streak and saw them replace us at the top of the league, then we drew 1-1 at home to fellow high-flyers Manchester United. But we backed that up with a 1-0 win at Norwich then 3-0 at home to Huddersfield with a Sidnei brace and a goal from Sterling.

December saw an absolute feast of goals, beginning with a ridiculous 5-3 defeat at Newcastle that we’d led 3-2 with 12 minutes to go.

Newc 5-3 Leeds

But we got back to winning ways as Clarke bagged another hat-trick, which were his first goals since his previous hat-trick on the opening day of the season. Two 3-2 away wins then followed, with a Sterling brace and a Clarke goal at Wolverhampton Wanderers then Clarke, Sidnei and Konrad De La Fuente wrapping up a win at Fulham, who’d been performing well with a team of great youngsters.

We then fell to defeat 1-0 at Crystal Palace, which clearly wound up my players as they responded with a 9-0 (NINE!) thrashing of West Ham United. Sterling was in outrageous form as he bagged four goals, with De La Fuente bagging two and goals from Sidnei, backup holding midfielder Bjorn Marinov and midfielder Ahmed Zahran.

Leeds 9-0 West Ham

That goal-fest was followed by a dull 0-0 draw at home to Manchester City, which brought 2024 to an end.

Champions League campaign

We were handed an interesting Champions League draw alongside Fiorentina, Atletico Madrid and Besiktas. We got off to a decent start with a 1-1 draw at home to a strong Fiorentina side, then a 1-1 draw in Turkey and another draw with a 0-0 in Madrid, which meant the group was pretty tight at the half-way stage.

Doro’s fourth minute goal gave us a vital 1-0 win at home to Atletico, before a 5-2 smashing at Fiorentina in which we’d been five goals down inside an hour. That made the final group game vital and we responded well to thrash Besiktas 5-1, with a brace from Sterling and goals from Juan Carlos Calvo, De La Fuente and backup striker Giacomo Gramantieri, to qualify for the knockout stages.

Champ Cup Group F

Join us next time to see how our tight battle at the top of the Premier League turns out, and how far we get in the Champions League having been drawn with FC Bayern in the knockout first round.

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