In 1919, Leeds United was formed to be the team that represents West Yorkshire. Throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, Leeds United was a staple team in the First Division league. In 1992, they were part of the inaugural season of the Premier League, where they stayed until 2004.
They were then relegated, only returning to the Premier League in the 2020-21 season, but no matter what league they’ve been in, they’ve had some fantastic players.
We’ll break down the seven greatest Leeds United players, looking first at two up-and-coming players to watch and then five historical Leeds United icons.
7. Jack HarrisonEmbed from Getty Images
- Position: Left-Winger
- Years with Leeds United: 2018 – present
Jack Harrison had a somewhat unorthodox route to the Premier League. From age 7 to 14, he played for Manchester United’s academy and then went to play high school soccer in the United States. He had a lot of success there, winning the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2015.
He entered the 2016 MLS Superdraft and was selected first overall by Chicago before being traded to New York City. He played in New York for two seasons before signing with Manchester City, who are a partner club with his New York team.
He was loaned out to Leeds United in 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2020-21. In July of 2021, Leeds permanently signed Harrison away from Manchester City. This was a smart move for the team, since Harrison’s goal in the stoppage time of Leeds’ game against Brentford kept Leeds from being relegated at the end of the 2021-22 season.
No matter how he got to the club, Leeds is lucky to have Harrison as their left winger, and he’s another player to watch.
6. RaphinhaEmbed from Getty Images
- Position: Right-Winger
- Years with Leeds United: 2020 – present
This Brazilian powerhouse is a rising star at Leeds. In his first season, he scored the only goal in Leeds’ match at Everton, which led to Leeds United’s first Premier League win at Everton’s home field of Goodison Park.
Raphinha is from the same town as Ronaldinho, and even attended Ronaldinho’s birthday party. Raphinha’s father played in the band that Ronaldinho hired, and a seven-year-old Raphinha tagged along. The two have since developed a friendship.
Raphinha also has a friendship with Portuguese player Bruno Fernandes. The two are so close that Raphinha considers them brothers, and Fernandes told Raphinha that his style of play would fit the Premier League.
In a self-written piece published on the Player’s Tribune on August 26, 2021, Raphinha said that he “just love(s) Leeds, man.” And he may have been destined to end up at the club. He shares a birthday with number 3 on this list, Peter Lorimer. Keep an eye on Raphinha to see if he can beat Lorimer’s all-time scoring record throughout his career.
5. Mick JonesEmbed from Getty Images
- Position: Centre-Forward
- Years with Leeds United: 1967 – 1975
Mick Jones was a key player for Leeds, but his career was plagued with injuries and bad luck. However, one of his most famous moments shows the true grit and tenacity of Mick Jones as a person and as a player.
During the 1972 FA Cup Final, Mick Jones assisted on what would turn out to be the only goal of the game. In the literal final minute of play, Jones collided with the Arsenal goalkeeper and dislocated his elbow. As the game ended, Mick was in clear pain and distress on the field.
However, he insisted that the medical staff attending to him temporarily strap his gruesomely injured arm to his side so that he could collect his medal. He took the stairs slowly but made it with the help of teammate Norman Hunter, stopping to speak to the Queen of England.
She had given his medal to another player, who had already passed it off to Mick, but he wanted to complete the walk nonetheless. After a few moments with the Queen and other members of the royal family, he continued down the stairs again and was taken off of the field on a stretcher, unable to celebrate further with his teammates.
And the celebration was immense, since this was Leeds United’s first ever FA Cup win. Mick Jones scored 10 goals per season three times, in 1968-69, 1969-70, and 1973-74. Before his retirement, he scored 101 goals in 283 appearances and played for the England national team three times.
4. Tony YeboahEmbed from Getty Images
- Position: Centre-Forward
- Years with Leeds United: 1995 – 1997
Although he had a short tenure with Leeds United, Tony Yeboah had a long and historic career. One of the best soccer players to ever come from Ghana, Tony Yeboah spent his fantastic career at a variety of European clubs.
When he signed with Bundesliga in 1988, he was one of the first Black players in that league. Even though he was an incredible striker, he faced racism during his career, with fans booing and making monkey noises at him.
Despite this adversity, he would have immense success throughout his time as a professional soccer player. When he was with Leeds United, he was voted Player of the Year in 1996. In 66 appearances with the club, he scored 32 goals, many of which were featured as Goal of the Month.
From 1995 to 2013, Tony Yeboah held the honor of being the only player ever to win successive BBC Match of the Day’s Goal of the Month competitions (September and October of 1995). Welsh soccer player Gareth Bale also got the honor two months in a row in 2013.
3. Peter LorimerEmbed from Getty Images
- Position: Right-Midfield
- Years with Leeds United: 1962 – 1979
Peter Lorimer has two distinctions that really set him apart from the others on this list: he is the all-time highest scorer for Leeds United (219 goals in 616 appearances), and he is the youngest player to don the kit for the first team.
On September 29th, 1962, Peter Lorimer took the field for Leeds United at a practically infantile 15 years and 289 days old. As he grew up in front of the League’s eyes, Lorimer not only scored a lot, but he scored with incredible style and power. He could regularly kick the ball at more than 90 miles per hour, and he had a penalty kick reach speeds of 107 miles per hour.
Lorimer stayed connected with the Leeds organization after he retired as a player, frequently discussing the club on news programs and writing a column in the Yorkshire Evening Post. He also contributed to the club’s match program up until late February of 2021, just about a month before his death.
2. John CharlesEmbed from Getty Images
- Position: Centre-Forward
- Years with Leeds United: 1949 to 1956, 1962
This Welsh player not only helped Leeds win promotion when he was their team captain in 1955, but he has an achievement that says a lot about his personality and playing style: John Charles was never cautioned (given a yellow card) or sent off (given two yellows in a game or a red card) in his entire career.
Later in his career, he played for the Italian team Juventus, and while there, he earned an Italian nickname: Il Gigante Buono, which means The Gentle Giant. But at only 17 years old, John Charles started his career at Leeds United.
His presence on the squad during his time there left an indelible mark on the club. One of the things that John Charles had going for him was his versatility on the field. He played multiple positions — center forward and center back — and he could score off of either foot.
In addition, his height of 6 foot 2 inches (1.88 meters) meant he could score from the air, as well. He’s the second-highest all-time scorer for Leeds United, scoring 150 League goals in his eight years with the team.
1. Billy BremnerEmbed from Getty Images
- Position: Central-Midfield
- Years with Leeds United: 1959 to 1976
It would be a crime to give the number one spot of greatest Leeds players to anyone other than Billy Bremner. This Scottish powerhouse is one of the all-time greats at the midfield position, and his game was marked by precise ball control, physical endurance, and aggressive tackling.
He was with Leeds through one of their most successful periods as a club, and he contributed greatly to their success. He’s in the Football Hall of Fame in Scotland and England, and there is a statue of him outside of the Leeds United Elland Road Stadium, located at the southeast corner.
After playing for some other clubs, he came back to Leeds United in 1985 as the manager. He held the position for three years.