First off, Pontus Jansson hasn’t, nor has anyone associated with the Swede, said that he is leaving Elland Road. Disappointed in missing out on promotion he may be, disillusioned with the Whites he certainly isn’t.
However, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Jansson could leave Elland Road this summer transfer window. Jansson has been at Elland Road since signing on an initial loan deal from Serie A side Torino in August 2016.
He’s served the Whites as well as any fan could have wished for and looked back to his rock-like, head-a-brick best under Bielsa this season. Thing is though, will he be back next season to have another run at promotion to the Premier League with Leeds?
He’s been part of a Leeds United side that finished 7th, then 13th before heartbreakingly losing out against Derby County in the Championship Play-Off semi-final last night. The 28-year-old featured in 39 games during the 2018/19 campaign, scoring three goals and adding one assist.
Jansson is also a seasoned Sweden international, one with 20 caps to his name. Will he be prepared to wallow in the second level of English football when he could likely play at a higher level? Loyalty only stretches so far when checked by ambition.
Having said all of that, should the right offer come in from a Premier League team (like some have mentioned might be the case), it is unlikely that Leeds will stand in the popular Swede’s way as he looks to step up in class.
With that in mind, here’s five centre-backs that Leeds United should consider to fill the gap should the worst come to the worst and Jansson leave Elland Road.
Five centre-backs to fill a Jansson void
1. Yoann Barbet (Brentford): there’s already been some social media chatter about Leeds United interest in Frenchman Barbet. His contract is due up at the end of June and Barbet has already been told that he is not going to have his contract with the Bees renewed. He featured 32 times for the Londoners during the 2018/19 Championship campaign and fits the Bielsa mould in that he can play both centre-back positions as well as fill in at left-back. He’s been at Griffin Park since 2015 and has 107 Championship appearances under his belt.
2. Alberto Botia (Hilal): Leeds fans might scoff at Botia playing in Saudi Arabia for Hilal, before they remember that Pablo Hernandez came from the Arab leagues to Elland Road. The Spaniard, Botia that is, has been at Hilal since signing a one-year deal when moving on a free transfer from Olympiacos in July 2018. Before that move he’d featured for the likes of Spanish sides Sevilla, Sporting Gijon and Elche after coming through Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth set-up. In terms of experience, Botia has 140 games in La Liga and 66 in Greece’s top-tier Super League competition.
Jonas Ramalho (Girona): Ramalho is another Spaniard with bags of experience whose contract is due up in June this year. He’s featured in 150 games across La Liga and La Liga2. He’s featured in 152 games for Girona, 22 of those this season in La Liga following on from 26 last season. More interestingly though is that he is known to Marcelo Bielsa, playing 13 times under him for Bilbao when the legendary Argentinian was in charge there. Again he’s another that fits the Bielsa mould, able to play as a right-sided centre-back, a right-back and even as a right-sided midfielder.
Mike van der Hoorn (Swansea): Dutchman van der Hoorn is currently on Swansea’s books, but his deal runs out at the end of June. Swansea haven’t released their retained list yet, but it is well known that the Welsh side will have to restructure and are likely to be letting players leave. The 6ft 3in centre-back has been at the Liberty Stadium since a £2.2m transfer from Dutch giants Ajax in early July 2016. He was ever=present during the Swans 2018/19 Championship campaign, scoring three goals and adding an assist. He’s got 94 games experience in English football, including 32 in the Premier League. Not as multi-dimensional as Bielsa might prefer, but he’s a solid centre-back.
Daniel Schwaab (PSV Eindhoven): Schwaab is currently on the books at PSV, although he will be leaving at the end of his current deal. The 30-year-old German, capped 24 times at Under-21 level, will be moving on to pastures new. He’s featured 31 times for PSV in the Eredivisie this season, as well as playing in the Dutch side’s five Champions League ties. He oozes bags of experience, 188 Bundesliga games, 91 2.Bundesliga games and 85 games in the Eredivisie. Whether he’d be prepared to drop down to second-tier football is the question that would need to be answered. He’s the type of player Bielsa wants though in that he can play both central defensive positions, slot in at right-back and even as a defensive midfielder.