Formed in 1919, Leeds United is one of the best supported and most famous teams in England. From former players like James Milner and Rio Ferdinand, to opposition stars such as Steven Gerrard and Ronaldo, the team’s Elland Road stadium has hosted some of the biggest names in world soccer.
It was in the 1960s and 1970s, managed by former England forward Don Revie, that the team nicknamed The Whites enjoyed their greatest success. Revie guided Leeds to two league titles, one FA Cup, one League Cup, one Charity Shield and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups. The team also reached the 1975 European Cup Final – shortly after Revie left to manage England – losing to Bayern Munich.
One of the world’s greatest ever players, Holland and Barcelona midfielder Johan Cruyff, said of Revie’s team: “If you give Leeds the ball, they will make you dance."
The Class of 1992
After Revie’s departure, the team struggled to enjoy the same level of success and were eventually relegated from England’s top league in 1982. However, the appointment of Howard Wilkinson as manager in 1988 saw Leeds push their way back to the very top of English soccer.
Wilkinson’s team were promoted in 1990 and, in just their second season back in England’s top league, Leeds were crowned the last ever champions of the First Division in 1992, beating Manchester United to the title. The following season the competition was renamed the Premier League.
Champions League Adventure
Leeds went on to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the early years of the Premier League and the appointment of David O’Leary as manager in 1998 heralded another exciting new era.
O’Leary built a talented young team – including Robbie Keane and Mark Viduka – that never finished outside the top five, and reached the semi-finals of both the UEFA Cup and Champions League, taking on the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and AC Milan.
However, failure to qualify for the Champions League in the following years led to financial crisis, with Leeds unable to repay loans. Relegation to the Championship duly came, soon followed by another relegation to League One.
Bielsa and the Premier League return
Leeds beat Manchester United in the FA Cup at Old Trafford in 2010 and were promoted back into the Championship later that year. A return to the Premier League, however, seemed a distant dream until Andrea Radrizzani took over as chairman in 2017.
Radrizzani – who announced that 49ers Enterprises (the business arm of the NFL team the San Francisco 49ers) had bought shares in the team, was set on promotion and his appointment of world-renowned coach Marcelo Bielsa transformed Leeds. In July 2020, after 16 years out of the Premier League, Bielsa’s Leeds were promoted back to England’s top division.