Leeds United’s summer friendlies have awarded minutes to almost every player in Marcelo Bielsa’s first-team and Mark Jackson’s U23s.
Pre-season is primarily an opportunity to condition players ahead of a rigorous nine-month domestic campaign, but it can also serve a secondary purpose.
Matches where results are inconsequential, which bear all the characteristics of a high-intensity, competitive fixture are opportune moments to assess the players still on the fringes of the manager’s thinking.
Ian Poveda is one individual still frustratingly nestled between the U23s and the first-team at Elland Road.
Poveda made 14 Premier League appearances last term, but registered no goals or assists, largely due to the five-and-ten minute stints on the pitch.
During pre-season, he is yet to feature alongside the senior squad.
He is a player Marcelo Bielsa clearly envisions a future for at Leeds United, but with Jack Harrison and Raphinha both in inspired form throughout 2021, a breakthrough is anything but imminent.
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Still just 21 years-old, Poveda remains a prospect and has featured regularly for the U23s.
In the Netherlands on Wednesday, Poveda played 90 minutes in the Leeds U23 vs Jong Ajax friendly, which saw the junior Whites beaten 3-1.
As a result, he was then not involved in the senior squad’s match with the Ajax first-team at Johan Cruijff Arena that evening.
Ian Poveda replaces Raphinha for Leeds United during their 1-0 win over Burnley
(Image: Molly Darlington – Pool/Getty Images)
Crysencio Summerville though, who had played 45 minutes earlier that day, did make the bench for Bielsa’s first-team, along with Helder Costa who also played one half in the Jong Ajax fixture.
This may have always been the intention, with minutes in Poveda’s legs at any level a priority. But, it is hard to ignore that the young winger has struggled to make an impact on first-team affairs in his 18 months at the club, mainly due to a lack of opportunity.
For that reason, Marcelo Bielsa may look to utilise his new loan manager Andrew Taylor, in seeking out a suitable Championship club where Poveda will play regularly and demonstrate the ability Bielsa has identified.
Liverpool had success with such a ploy last season, loaning Harvey Elliott to Blackburn Rovers where the young attacker excelled.
Leicester City’s Harvey Barnes is another example; a player currently on the periphery of the England setup, having previously been on the fringes of the Foxes’ squad prior to a fruitful Championship loan with West Bromwich Albion in 2018.
Poveda making room in Bielsa’s squad could open the door for a Raphinha-type addition in the wide areas; a signing secured late in the window for a price which belies their market value – however that remains speculative for the time being.
Crysencio Summerville converts his spot-kick for Leeds United
(Image: George Wood/Getty Images)
If Marcelo Bielsa has ultimately taken the view that Summerville can fulfil the role of back-up to the back-up, then a Poveda loan would certainly make sense.
With another three years on his Leeds contract, at his age and with a dearth of top flight experience, it is unlikely any club further down the pyramid will have either the means or motivation to move for the 21-year-old permanently.
Provided a Championship club can find room in their wage structure to accommodate the ex-England youth international for a season, it could guarantee Poveda access to the first-team football he requires in order to continue developing.