Leeds United: former loanee in impressive opening for new club

Leeds United had a Brazilian once, he was called Roque Junior. He arrived on loan from AC Milan and was highly-rated. Things didn’t work out for him, Leeds fans were left disappointed that things didn’t quite work out. Cue the start of the 2014/15 campaign and Massimo Cellino’s extended, active pursuit of Adryan, hailed as the ‘next Zico’, and Leeds were in the hunt for another highly-rated Brazilian. After much wrangling with his former club Cagliari, Cellino had his man and Adryan was a Leeds United player, albeit on loan from Brazilian giants Flamengo. Were Leeds fans getting the new Zico or another dusty version of Roque Junior?

Adryan at Leeds – a Brazilian boy wonder?

As anticipation grew, Leeds fans were made to wait until the 62nd minute of a 2-1 defeat to Rotherham to see the youngster in action.

A glorious cameo of a debut promised much, but Leeds fans were left grasping as the young Brazilian lived up to his reputation in fits and start, glimpses and flashes. For moments such as the assist for Souleymane Doukara at Elland Road against Blackpool, there were moments of hilarity as he flopped around like a grounded fish against Derby. In truth, Adryan played a bit-part in the Leeds United 2014/15 Championship campaign, with some saying that he wasn’t up to the physicality the Championship presented; Leeds’ then head coach, Neil Redfearn, admitting that he [Adryan] had “He’s just got to do a bit more. He needs to do well and if he does well, he’ll get his chance again.” His time at Leeds petered out and he wasn’t retained, instead being re-loaned by Flamengo to French Ligue 1 side FC Nantes. Such was his promise, some Leeds fans were left wondering whether not keeping hold of the menino prodígio would come back and bite the club firmly on the derriere.

Adryan at Nantes – ¿um menino prodígio brasileiro?

After an impressive showing in pre-season, Adryan was unleashed on French opponents for the first time in the last two Ligue 1 games against Guingamp (1-0 victory – August 8) and Angers (0-0 draw – August 15). The more open, less physical side of French football was thought to be more suited to the style of play in which Adryan approaches the ‘beautiful game’. Sky Sports reported that in the recent win against Guingamp, Adryan was impressive and “was at the centre of most of their good work,” but other websites, such as But! say there is still much work to be done in order to see the best of the young Brazilian. But! said in a recent article,

“Son temps d’adaptation est clairement en cours mais on sent bien qu’il est intéressant dès lors qu’il y a du mouvement autour de lui. A Angers, ce ne fut pas souvent le cas.” But! – August 15, 2015

“His adjustment period is clearly underway but we feel that it is interesting once there is movement around him. At Angers, it was not often the case.” Translation

This seems to be the positives that Nantes observers are seeing, positives that Adryan operates better when fitting into the movement of players around him. Maybe that’s what handicapped him at Leeds, the style of play in the rough-and-tumble of the Championship for Leeds was not conducive to the fluidity that Adryan was used to playing with. However, as well as stressing the positives, the way that the young Brazilian is adapting and influencing play around him, French websites are also quick to indicate that some of the concerns held against Adryan whilst he was at Leeds are still valid in his infancy at Nantes; namely the slightness of his physique and whether it is suited to elements of the style of play around him.

In the aforementioned and linked But! article one thing that they do say about Adryan is that “Son manque d’épaisseur dans les duels…/His lack of thickness [solidity] in the tackles…” are an issue. Another But! article mentions that, whilst he is only two games into his year-long loan spell, the slightness of his frame to cope with the rigours of French top-tier football is worrying the team management. To this end, the article says,

“Le souci avait déjà été pointé du doigt à son arrivée le mois dernier mais il ne s’est pas réglé du jour au lendemain. Pour pouvoir tenir sur la durée en France, le milieu offensif brésilien doit se forger une caisse physique et le club nantais le soumet donc à un traitement personnalisé en interne.” But! – August 15, 2015

“The concern had already been pointed at his arrival last month but has not settled overnight . To fit on the time in France , the Brazilian midfielder has to form a physical body and the club Nantes therefore subjected [him] to in-house, customized treatment .” Translation


It’s early days yet regarding Adryan’s career in France with Nantes but one thing keeps burning at my mind. Given that he has been given a full crack of the whip from the start of the season in, to be fair to France’s Ligue 1, a higher standard of football than the English Championship, my question is this: will Adryan develop into the sort of player who ghosts past opponents and comes back to haunt Leeds United as the ‘one who got away‘? Leeds saw glimpses of what he was capable of in the games against Rotherham, Blackpool and Derby – will what happens in Nantes leave faithful Whites kicking themselves? Yes, the same supposed physical deficiencies that were cited at Leeds United as a hindrance to his development have surfaced again in France, but will  full season help with his adjustment. On the note of him being to slight to hack it in the English game, I have one word to say.


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