Emerging talent is what appears to be bringing life back to Leeds United in the transfer market. They sign players of older age groups too, but there is something undeniably alluring about an underutilized footballer, the Deal of Tomorrow, a name that doesn’t ring a house bell.
There is nothing unknown in the game these days, or not in the halls of competent recruiting departments, but one of Victor Orta’s passions is finding prospects that make him sit before the wider world takes notice.
He was one of only a handful of scouts who attended the South American Under-20 Championship before it was fashionable. That heroism now attracts hundreds of pairs of eyes, a vain exercise in trying to see what others haven’t discovered.
Leeds are back in those circles again – the junior circuits, rather than South America – with a keen interest in Diogo Monteiro, the 17-year-old Portuguese defender who plays for Servette in the Swiss Super League. He turns 18 in just over a week’s time, at which point Leeds could formalize an offer for him, and with such a transfer thrown in, it just so happens that teams and selection orders never stop, especially at youth level.
One moment Charlie Cresswell, midway through loan at Millwall, is the young defender rated as Elland Road’s Flavor of the Month. Then, the sands turn quickly and Montero is targeted at the same time Leeds are debating whether Cresswell could be sold in this window. At least one high-profile club wants Cresswell permanently and the option is not off the table. It hasn’t been 18 months since the England Under-21 international made his Premier League debut, and that was fine.
The same scramble for position is under way up front, as Leeds suddenly find themselves with far more players to work with and, improbably, more players than they really need.
There was no Georginio Rutter in last night’s FA Cup replay against Cardiff City, disqualified having signed from Hoffenheim after the initial draw in Wales, but he is Leeds’ record signing and answer to questions posed to Jesse Marsh about where Rutter could move to. particulary. He could only have his starting lineup somewhere.
The most two-footed player Marsh says he’s ever seen isn’t supposed to come off the bench. Luis Sinistera was included after recovering from a foot injury, the first time he had been seen since October. There’s £50m worth of talent in those two pairs of feet alone – enough, one would think, to give Leeds’ weary season some oxygen.
Willy Genonto, Crescencio Summerville, Mateo Joseph and Sonny Perkins: The fixing pen was bumped before Marsh looked at his two most experienced forwards, Patrick Bamford and Rodrygo.
This leaves Joe Gellhard, for a while the golden boy and magnet for Leeds hype. The Liverpdlian is precocious, fast maturing and still young at the age of twenty. But at 20, he is older than some of the others he rivals and over the past few weeks Leeds have been debating whether to send him out on loan. A move into the Championship would be easy and Swansea City was one of the teams interested in him, although a temporary return to Wigan Athletic seemed his most likely destination.
He was on the bench against Cardiff last night, in a drawn game when normally a long run would have made sense, but it was Marsh’s right to attack the game in a way that kept the wolf out of the door.
Leeds stood by their coach after a tense defeat against Aston Villa last Friday, and decided over the weekend that he would continue to work, but the camel’s back would only take a lot of straw. And as if evidence of a change of hierarchy was needed, Gnonto delivered more genius in the first minute: a Paolo Di Canio-esque ball with the outside of his right boot bearing half pure technical ability and half estimated. The Italians have shown great confidence in England.
Pure brilliance by Wilfried Gnonto ✨
His impressive position outside football puts Leeds United ahead against Cardiff City
It reminded us of Paolo Di Canio’s goal against Wimbledon all those years ago…
– Athlete | Football (TheAthleticFC) January 18, 2023
It is not only Gellhardt who will struggle to change it. Marsh wouldn’t sacrifice Gnonto for Rutter either.
To coin a phrase, that goal was worth the ticket price alone and Genonto was up Cardiff’s throat the whole time, and it’s a pity he didn’t finish it off with a hat-trick. Raphinha has become so sense that the crowd instantly shuts down as soon as he threatens to cut him off. Cardiff were hard at it and it was all done before half-time by a smashing Rodrigo in the second and Genonto in the third. The easy progression Marsh wanted was the same, without any bullshit or fallout.
Watching from the touchline, Gellhardt noted a methodical win until he replaced Gnonto in the closing stages. Bamford scored Leeds’ final goals of the night, two goals clear in a 5–0 scoreline, assisted by Gellhardt as Cardiff wilted and the score threatened to go to 10. Unexpectedly, the team finished tied 5–2 after a moment of stagnation in defense left Callum. Robinson rocked a close-range gesture and a controversial penalty against Marc Roca gave him second place in injury time.
Leeds see the possibility of a Geelhardt loan as part of his development and a path to more minutes, which means his place in the club’s long-term vision is not in jeopardy at this stage. He has a long contract, until 2027, but he’s been caught for a while between his own form and the club’s perimeter use of it, unable to spread his feint across the field at Elland Road. Gnonto will obviously be part of the answer to what Leeds’ season takes from here. Gelhart’s time seems to come later.