For Leeds United fans, the nearly-but-not-quite scenario of last season was the best that it has been at Elland Road for many a long year.
Mid-table mediocrity and scrabbling around for wins, and hope, was replaced by a flowing brand of football that led fans to finally believe. At Christmas the Whites were atop the Sky Bet Championship table, before a typical Leeds second half of the season undid them.
Behind that flowing football, that high-press off-the-ball pressure, that hope was one man – Marcelo Bielsa. The legendary Argentinian coach transformed the way the West Yorkshire club played football, but it was more than that.
His arrival also transformed the way the club thought about football, the way that they conducted themselves. Call it an ethos if you like, others will call it a philosophy. Whatever term you attach to it, Bielsa brought it to Elland Road and made the Whites even more beautiful.
Bielsa’s presence allowed him to gain access to loan players that parent teams might not have wanted to send otherwise. Players such as Jack Harrison from Manchester City. Harrison has said his thank-yous and goodbyes to Elland Road, his departure leaving a gap on the right flank.
That gap will need filling, what follows is a list of right-sided midfielders/wingers whose contracts are due up this coming June.
Five right-sided midfield/wing targets that would fill the Jack Harrison gap at Leeds United
1. Jason (Levante): 24-year-old A Coruña-born Jason is one option that Leeds United might want to explore. His contract is not only due up at the end of June, he’s not going to be offered a new deal. He’ll be leaving Levante after three years there, and with a La Liga season of 30 appearances, two goals and five assists under his belt. He has a total of 60 appearances (three goals/seven assists) at La Liga level with a further 60 appearances (12 goals/two assists) at La Liga2 level. He’s also able to fit the requirements of dropping back to a regular right midfield spot.
2. Lazar Markovic (Fulham): Markovic joined Fulham on transfer deadline day in January on a short-term, free transfer deal from Liverpool. The 22-cap Serbia international had been at Anfield since 2014 with the Reds paying Benfica £22.5million for his services. His time on Merseyside was peppered with loan deals to the likes of Hull City and Anderlecht. He featured once for Fulham this season, appearing in the 3-1 loss to West Ham. He does have 32 Premier League appearances to his name (four goals/one assist), the bulk of these coming from his time at Liverpool.
3. Sheraldo Becker (ADO Den Haag): Becker is rapid, with standing start acceleration that allows him to beat his man easily. Altogether Becker has featured in 33 games for Den Haag in this season’s Eredivisie, racking up 2,871 minutes or 94% of available game time. He’s scored seven goals and provided 10 assists, his latest goal coming in a 2-0 win against Feyenoord six days ago. That brings his total to 13 goals and 21 assists in 95 games for Den Haag and 17 goals and 26 assists in his 120 games in the Dutch top-tier Eredivisie competition. There’s already some in the media saying that Leeds United are keeping an eye on him, alongside interest from rivals Middlesbrough.
4. Zinedine Ferhat (AC Le Havre): Eight-cap Algerian international Ferhat is one right-sided midfield player that the Whites and Bielsa might entertain interest in. He can play further forward as a right-wing, and also fill in further infield as an attacking midfielder. He arrived at Le Havre from Algerian football at the start of July 2016, featuring for the French side 114 times over three seasons. In that time, he’s scored 12 goals and provided 35 assists including four goals and seven assists this season. What Leeds fans would want to see was his production from the season before when he scored four goals and provided a staggering 20 assists.
5. Ian Poveda (Manchester City Under-23s): This would not be a ‘coming to the end of his deal’ deal as English/Colombian Poveda in under contract at the Citizens until 2021. However, the 10-cap/two-goal England Under-19 international could be that leftfield option that might just work at Elland Road under Marcelo Bielsa. He’s scored six times and provided six assists for Manchester City in 29 appearances across all competitions/age groups this season. With there being such a close level of mutual respect between Bielsa and Pep Guardiola, this might be an interesting option for Leeds to explore.