He was a World Cup winner in 2002 with Brazil, yet he couldn’t cut it at Leeds United when on a short-term loan between July-December 2003 from AC Milan. Those six games for the Whites showed that he wasn’t cut out for English football and, despite scoring twice in a 3-2 Worthington Cup loss to Manchester United, his exit was a mere whimper.
It just goes to show that reputation isn’t everything, a World Cup winner not cutting it in English football. However, this glimpse into the transfer archives isn’t about Roque Junior and his failed adventure at Elland Road. Rather, it is about another footballer whose reputation landed him in LS11 and who just didn’t cut it either.
That player is the diminutive Swedish attacker Tomas Brolin who signed for the Whites in a deal that even made the usually dour and serious Howard Wilkinson crack a smile. He signed for Leeds from Italian side AC Parma the year after helping Sweden finish third in the 1994 World Cup and coming fourth in that season’s Ballon d’Or voting. Between 1990 and 1994, Brolin was arguably one of the world’s best players.
He came to Elland Road thinking he’d be the spider in the middle of the Leeds United web, threading passes and pulling strings for the Whites. However, he was shunted around from attacker to wide right and, by his admission, took umbrage at this. After being told to play out on the right again against Liverpool, Brolin decided that he’d turn in a shocker.
And he was true to his word. Leeds were hammered 5-0 and Brloin went on to start just one further game for Leeds against Nottingham Forest on January 31, 1996. Leeds were reported to have paid £4.5 million for Brolin, a fee for which they saw the Swede play 22 times for the club and score just four goals. Just nine months later he was loaned to FC Zurich.
Brolin retired at the young age of 28 to become an investor in a domestic hoover business and also a pro on the poker circuit. Many Leeds United fans will argue that the kind of chips used in a casino weren’t the only ones that he loved. I mean, Graveleys isn’t that far from the gates of Elland Road at all.