One thing that Leeds United had been crying out for under the lean years of Massimo Cellino’s reign was a creative #10.
There were flirtations with that position during those times, indeed during last season and the Garry Monk years, but nothing seemed to stick on a permanent basis. Supposed Brazilian wonderkid Adryan was brought in. He showed flashes, sprinklings of talent and skill that made him a star in the Brazil youth set-up.
Yet he’ll be remembered more for rolling around on the floor like a fish out of water after one innocuous foul. Even home-grown Academy youngster Alex Mowatt was tried out there, but again without long-term success. The Whites were a team crying out for some creativity to spark the side.
In one transfer they got just that, Pablo Hernandez signing from Qatari side Al Arabi during the January 2017 transfer window, later signing a permanent deal for the Whites. His first half-season as a Leeds United player returned an impressive six goals and eight assists, earning him a contract extension for this season.
So far this campaign the Spaniard has four goals and six assists, including a brace of assists that brought Leeds United level in Sunday’s game against Bristol City. In fact, had Pierre-Michel Lasogga have scored with his last-gasp header that cannoned back off the bar, it would have been a hat-trick assist for Pablo.
But, as anyone will tell you that has visited the land of sun, sea and sangria – one beer in the midday heat is always better when combined with another, and some tapas. To that degree Leeds United made their Spanish flair double with this summer’s signing of Samu Saiz.
It was a signing out of the blue really, a signing that left Leeds fans scurrying for YouTube and the Internet to glean whatever information that they could about the soon-to-arrive Huesca forward. One thing that they would have found is that he came up through the footballing pedigree of Real Madrid and their youth set-up, before making more of a name for himself with cross-city rivals Atletico.
He as also coming off of a great season with Huesca, his 12 goals and eight assists driving the La Liga 2 side to the brink of promotion. It was a dream failed, but that failure became Leeds United’s success with the mercurial attacker joining the Whites for a fee thought to be a shade over £3 million – not small change really.
The thing is that it is proving to be a shrewd investment indeed, with Saiz returning five goals and five assists in the Sky Bet Championship this season – along with another four goals in the Carabao Cup. He’s proving to be a natural asset for the Whites in the #10 position behind what was a lone striker under Thomas Christiansen, but with two up top last time out for new boss Paul Heckingbottom.
— #WALMOT (@WALM0T33) February 20, 2018
Pairing Leeds United’s two Spaniards, Hernandez and Saiz could very well be the master stroke that kick-starts a more successful end of the season than the 2018 results have suggested so far. With Adam Forshaw providing that high-volume, high-accuracy passing in the midfield engine room, and with Pablo and Samu dancing to their own flamenco tunes, the Whites could very well turn out to be sneaky play-off candidates.
Whichever way that you look at it, Leeds United’s two Spaniards add a certain salsa flair to the side. Like the Spice Girls sang it’s a lot better when ‘2 become 1’ and it is that symbiosis and synergy that the Whites will be looking to as the rest of this mixed season plays out its due course.
Forget dancing the pasa doble, with Hernandez and Saiz helping to pull the strings behind Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Caleb Ekuban, Leeds United might have found their ‘passer doble‘.