Not a permanent competent of the Premier League, Leeds United have played some time in the top English league, though not recently, however they got promoted to Premier League again in 2019-20 season. Who are the best Leeds United players of all time?
Or in other words, who are the greatest players in the history of Leeds United? This for sure includes not only Leeds United best footballers of all time but also legendary Leeds United players ever.
On our list of best Leeds United players of all time, there are footballers who could be considered as Leeds United legends of all time plus the players who have made the most number of appearances or have scored the most number of goals for Leeds like Allan Clarke and Billy Bremner.
Let’s just get to know who the greatest players in the history of Leeds United are. The list starts with a retired English footballer, named David Batty, but what about the rest of the list? Read on to know.
Number one on the list of best Leeds United players ever, David Batty is a 52-year-old retired English footballer who served Leeds United in two time periods: Once from 1987 to 1993 and another time from 1998 to 2004 which actually sums up to 12 years. And during this time he made 220 appearances for the Whites, but to your astonishment, he only scored 4 goals despite being a midfielder.
With the number of goals Batty scored for Leeds (4) in the 220 appearances that he made for them, he gets a goal-to-appearance ratio of 0.018 which means the English midfielder scored a little less than one goal in every 50 appearances that he made for the Whites.
That’s actually the second lowest goal-to-appearance ratio among the best Leeds United players of all time, but why have we put him on the list of best Leeds United players ever? Because he’s, in fact, one of the Leeds United legends of all time.
Batty was part of the Leeds United team - and indeed a key member of it - who experienced two promotions: Once in 1989-90 season when they were promoted from the Second to the First Division, and another time in 1991-92 season where they got promoted from the First Division to the Premier League. Batty was indeed an excellent playmaker who at times proved ruthless in breaking up opposition attacks.
He was also a key player when it came to counterattacks. And we said he served Leeds United in two time periods? Yes; in his second spell with the Whites it was his experience that came in handy and actually led the then Leeds United team to the semi finals of both UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup.
The first passed footballer on the list of best Leeds United players of all time, Gary Speed was a Leeds United product who also served them the most during his career; actually for 8 years between 1988 and 1996 during which he made a total of 312 appearances and scored 57 goals for them. That actually gets him a goal-to-appearance ratio of 0.18 which means the passed English footballer scored almost one goal (exactly 0.9) in every 5 appearances that he made for Leeds.
That’s a better record than that of David Batty concerning that Speed was also a midfielder. As mentioned above, he made a total of 312 appearances for Leeds and scored 57 goals for them during his career which is more than the number of appearances he made and the number of goals he scored for the 4 other clubs he served, namely Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United. Speed won almost all his club trophies with Leeds United and was also named in the PFA Team of the Year in 1992-93 season.
Speed is considered as one of the Leeds United best footballers of all time if not the best Leeds United player ever. He could play both as a left midfielder and left back, but since he was an attacking midfielder he rarely played as a left back. He actually possessed a kind of tactical awareness that allowed him to both score and assist in scoring.
As a captain, Speed always demanded the best from his teammates. He himself was a hardworking footballer who cared a lot about his body and fitness. Unfortunately the cause of such a great footballer’s death was suicide. His body was found hanged in the garage of his home and later police confirmed his cause of death to be suicide.
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The third top Leeds United goalscorer with 151 goals, Alan Clarke is also the third on the list of best Leeds United players of all time. Just like Gary Speed, Allan Clarke has also won almost all his career club trophies with Leeds United. He actually served them for 9 years between 1969 and 1978 which is three to four times longer than the other clubs her served during his career, namely Walsall, Fulham, Leicester City, and Barnsley.
Clarke scored a total of 152 goals in the 366 appearances that he made for Leeds United across all competitions. That actually gets him a goal-to-appearance ratio of 0.41 which means the 74-year-old retired English footballer scored a little bit more than 2 goals (exactly 2.05) in every 5 appearances that he made for the Whites. These number of goals and appearances are actually a few times higher than the appearances Clarke made and goals he scored for other clubs he served during his career.
In his first season with Leeds - 1969-70 season, Clarke was nicknamed the Sniffer. Why? Because he actually sniffed out any goal opportunity on the pitch even the remotest ones. It was this instinct that actually helped him score 26 goals in his first season with Leeds.
He also shined that season in the FA Cup final against Chelsea where he ran through several defenders to set up a goal opportunity for his teammate, Mick Jones. He also hit the post in an attempt to score a goal. Despite all his efforts, however, Clarke couldn’t make it for a winner in that game.
The first and only non-European footballer on the list of best Leeds United players of all time - he’s actually from South Africa, Lucas Valeriu Radebe OIS, simply known as Lucas Radebe, is one of the best defenders Leeds United has ever had. He actually served Leeds United for 11 years between 1994 and 2005 and during this time made 256 appearances and scored 3 goals for them.
He has actually the lowest goal-to-appearance ratio among the Leeds United best footballers of all time - it’s 0.11, but that’s quite justifiable if you consider that he played as a center back.
We don’t and probably you don’t expect a defender to be a prolific goalscorer; a defender should excel at marking and that was actually what Radebe was excellent at. He not only stopped the most dangerous strikers from scoring by his man-to-man marking but also was famed for his acrobatic scissor kicks and diving headers just to prevent any threat to his own goal.
The interesting fact about Radebe is that he started his career as a goalkeeper and with the South African club, Kaizer Chiefs - he actually served only two clubs during his career: Leeds United and the same South African club, however, he later changed his position for the central midfielder and then again for the central defender post.
He also played as a goalkeeper for Leeds United in a game against Manchester United when Leeds then first goalkeeper, Mark Beeney, due to his deliberate touching the ball out of the penalty box.
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Aged 80 but not yet passed away, fortunately; Johnny Giles is not only on the list of best Leeds United players of all time but also the list of Leeds United top scorers of all time. He actually occupies the 4th position on the list with 114 goals scored for Leeds United during his career.
His fame not only comes from his being a Leeds United top scorer but also from the fact that he was a hard player. In fact, his decision to become tough on the pitch came after receiving a career-threatening ankle injury in a game against Birmingham City where he was tackled by the then Birmingham City right half, Johnny Watts.
Later after his retirement when he actually became a football pundit, Giles explained that he felt at that time that being though on the pitch was necessary for his full potential to realize. Indeed, in his words, he said that he felt he should become a lion rather than a lamb on the pitch.
Giles won almost all his club trophies with Leeds United; he also served Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion during his career and even won a FA Cup trophy with United in 1962-63 season. Giles was also inducted into English Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Also on the list of Leeds United top scorers of all time - he actually occupies the 2nd position on the list with 157 goals, John Charles is the next footballer among the Leeds United best footballers of all time. His complete name is William John Charles and he’s also considered as one of the legendary Leeds United players ever.
But why? Why is he considered as one of Leeds United legends of all time? Because he was considered as a world-class player in two different positions at his own time. He was both great as a center forward and as a center back; a rarity in the history of football.
And that’s not all about John Charles that makes him great; he had also a great character, and as described by the then Juventus captain, Giampiero Boniperti, Charles had a loyal and honest character and it was through his strong character that he actually managed to keep the whole team together and quite down any arguments that could happen within his team on the pitch or in the dressing room.
The great former English footballer, Sir Bobby Robson, considers Charles as a great player as Pele and Maradona. He even takes one step further in describing Charles as one of the greatest footballers in the history of football.
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And the interesting fact about John Charles is that unlike Allan Clarke and Johnny Giles he didn’t win all his club trophies with Leeds United. In fact, he just managed to finish as runner-up with Leeds in 1955-56 season when they competed in the Second Division.
He actually won most of his club trophies with Juventus, namely three Serie A titles and two Coppa Italia trophies, despite the fact that he served Leeds United for 3 years more and made almost twice as much appearances for the English club.
The first footballer on the list of best Leeds United players of all time who is both a product of Leeds United and played all his career for them; Eddie Gray is a 72-year-old retired Scottish footballer who served Leeds United for 17 years between 1966 and 1983 and as a winger.
During this time, he made a total of 577 appearances and scored 68 goals for Leeds which actually gets him a goal-to-appearance ratio of 0.11 meaning that the Scottish winger scored almost one goal (exactly 0.99) in every 9 appearances that he made for the Whites.
But this is not the goals Eddie Gray scored that has gotten him on the list of best Leeds United players ever, but his pace and excellent performance on both wings that actually had the then retired English footballer and Leeds United player, Don Revie, say about him: “when he plays on snow, he doesn't leave any footprints.”
Gray is also among the footballers who have never been booked during their careers, and concerning that he played at the time of hard players like Billy Bremner, Tommy Smith, and Ron Harris who was nicknamed the Chopper for his though style of defending, it could be considered as an achievement for him.
Another footballer on the list of best Leeds United players of all time who has served Leeds in two time periods, Peter Lorimer actually served Leeds United once from 1962 to 1979 at the start of his career and another time from 1983 to 1985 which actually sums up to 19 years in total. And during this time, he scored 168 goals in the 526 appearances that he made for Leeds only at league level.
That actually gets him a goal-to-appearance ratio of almost 0.32 and means that the 73-year-old retired Scottish footballer scored almost 1 goal (exactly 0.96) in every 3 appearances that he made for the Whites. Not bad for an attacking midfielder.
Despite the fact that Lorimer also served other clubs during his career, he won all his 7 club trophies with Leeds United. He’s actually the second footballer after Johnny Giles and Billy Bremner on the list of greatest players in the history of Leeds United to have won the most number of club trophies with Leeds United.
However, it is not the club trophies Lorimer has won that has gotten him on the list of top Leeds United footballers but his skill and industry on the pitch and his powerful shots on goal which earned him nicknames such as Hot Shot, Lash, and Thunderbolt during his footballing time. They say the speed of Lorimer shots was something around 145 km/h. Also a speed of 172 km/h was recorded for one of his penalty shots.
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Another passed and also another former Scottish footballer on the list of best Leeds United players of all time, Billy Bremner won more club trophies than any other footballer on the list, in fact, jointly with Johnny Giles. He actually won 8 club trophies with Leeds among them are one FA Cup and two First Division titles.
Bremner served Leeds United more than any other club during his career, in fact, for 16 years between 1960 and 1976 which is actually eight times longer than the time he served the two other clubs, namely Doncaster Rovers and Hull City, during his career.
With the 115 goals Bremner scored for Leeds United in the 773 appearances that he made for them, he is actually the third Leeds United top scorer of all time. Other than his goalscoring record for Leeds, Bremner was a key player for them in 1960s and 1970s - actually the post-World-War years - with his fiery temper and skill, industry, and intelligence that he had on the pitch; what was mentioned in his obituary, too. He was also a hard player and a tough tackler from a very young age of 17.
The fourth passed footballer on the list of best Leeds United players of all time and also the second footballer on the list after Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles, and alongside Peter Lorimer, to have won the most number of club trophies (7) with Leeds United; Jack Charlton is also the second footballer on the list after Eddie Gray who was both a product of Leeds United and played all his career for them; actually for 19 years between 1952 and 1973. And during this time he made a total of 762 appearances and scored 95 goals for Leeds United across all competitions.
Charlton was a center back like Lucas Radebe, but to be honest, his goal-to-appearance ratio is a little bit better than him. It is 0.12 which means he scored exactly 1.08 in every 9 appearances while Radebe has scored 0.99 in the same number of appearances.
Charlton played a few times as a center half and center forward during his career, but he actually was most effective as a center back and even some time during his career - actually in 1962-63 season - took on the role of defense line organizer. He was also part of the England national team who won the only World Cup ever won by an England national team in the 1966 edition of the competition.