Leeds United are known to be in the market for a central midfielder this summer.
But, central midfielders are a varied breed – there are sixes like Kalvin Phillips, eights like Mateusz Klich and tens like Rodrigo.
Leeds are most likely to be operative in the window for a No. 8 – somebody who is two-way, who can conduct themselves adequately in both defence and attack.
Mateusz Klich is very much that player, someone whose effectiveness is often understated. He creates goalscoring opportunities on a whim, receives in pockets of space and then feeds his more attacking-inclined teammates.
Those teammates, in turn, can eke out opportunities which give Leeds United a good chance of scoring.
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The value of these types of midfielders is seldom appreciated to its fullest extent, which is why perhaps Klich’s efficiency last season went largely untold.
Last year, After Raphinha, Jack Harrison and Patrick Bamford – players who all find themselves in more attacking positions than Klich on a regular basis – the Polish international created the most chances for his teammates than anyone else in a Leeds shirt.
For that reason, he presents Director of Football Victor Orta with a significant problem.
A player signed for a relatively minimal fee, who has over the past three years grown into an integral member of the squad, will at some point need to be replaced.
That is, unfortunately, the nature of the beast.
Leeds have been linked with a number of central midfielders this summer – the vast majority under the age of 23.
While not all transfer links should be paid equal attention, this suggests the club are targeting younger players, those who can learn the trade required by Marcelo Bielsa before playing a major role in the first-team.
Sweden’s defender Jens-Lys Michel Cajuste attends a training session on May 26, 2021 in Bastad, Sweden, where the Swedish national football team started its preparation for the upcoming EURO 2020 football tournament. – The European championship, which was delayed from last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, is set to take place across the continent between June 11 and July 11, 2021. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)
The likes of Jens Cajuste and Lewis Bate are prime examples.
Hypothetically, Cajuste at 21 would hardly walk into Bielsa’s side ahead of Klich, Stuart Dallas, Tyler Roberts or Rodrigo – but a year of being groomed to understand the finer details of Klich’s role, could certainly pay dividends for a player of Cajuste’s natural ability and athleticism.
Contrarily, Farid Boulaya is a name who has been mentioned in passing, but the Metz midfielder is known to be keen for an exit.
He hopes for a Champions League-calibre club to snare him from the Ligue 1 minnows.
Leeds United though, are not in the business of doing other teams favours – they are primed and focused upon improving the standing of the current squad, by adding players who not quite impressionable but eager, those will assimilate to the dressing room.
Diego Llorente, Rodrigo Moreno, Robin Koch and Raphinha all achieved that.
Other targets during the summer of 2020 were not so fortunate in joining this group; certain factors deterring the Leeds hierarchy, despite how close they came to signing on the dotted line.
Moving forward it appears Leeds will continue to assess the options available to them in the European market, but those who boast the majority of their career ahead of them will take priority.
At 30 years-old and with over 100 first-team appearances under Marcelo Bielsa, Mateusz Klich has more than carved out his corner in Leeds United folklore.
Another season of Premier League football may either prove to be his curtain call or a remontada of sorts.
Leeds United’s designs on a No. 8 in the Klich mold are not a betrayal of the Pole, rather a recognition that his time, considerable as it has been, will not last forever.
While an integral member of the squad – one who shall continue to be throughout 2021/22 – as a responsible club, Leeds must always be exploring options.
Football is an oft-cutthroat business, as seen in Pablo Hernandez’s final year as a Leeds player.
But as with Pablo, nor would Klich begrudge the club progressing, even if it occurred without him, which is likely to happen if not next season, then the year following.
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