When news filtered down to the Elland Road faithful that the club was in for a centre-back from Italian football, the critics were ready to lynch Massimo Cellino. Quite rightly so, his focus on importing players from the Italian leagues hardly worked what with quantity coming in front of quality.
However, with the arrival of Pontus Jansson, initially on loan from Torino, things soon came to be seen as somewhat different. Quite early on Whites fans saw that they were getting that quality import that had so long been missing from Cellino’s hotchpotch strategy of player importation.
Alongside Swansea loanee Kyle Bartley, Jansson soon grew into a cultured central defender and anchored the defensive line at the West Yorkshire club. His performances soon endeared him to the hearts of United fans. That continued, in large, after Bartley left and United adopted the twin management for the 2017/18 season of Thomas Christiansen and Paul Heckingbottom.
Even last season under Marcelo Bielsa, Jansson was playing steady football and looked confident in a new look, ball-control Leeds United side. Yet, cracks were beginning to appear and finally seemed to break when Jansson refused to follow Bielsa’s orders to allow Aston Villa to equalise after a contentious Leeds United goal at Elland Road.
His decision to try and tackle the Aston Villa player bearing down unopposed on the Leeds goal effectively marked his cards at the club, United deciding to let him leave on a cut-price deal to Brentford during the summer transfer window.
However, Jansson has spoken today of his admiration for Bielsa, admiration where he thanked the legendary Argentinian coach for helping him to improve. On this, he said: “To work with Bielsa for one year gave me a lot of headaches also because of long days, a lot of meetings and a lot of things to take in. But it helped me so much, not only as a player but also as a person how to be a professional footballer, how to eat, how to behave, how to sleep, all those things to recover well.”
Jansson has now firmly established himself at Brentford, taking on the responsibility of becoming club captain. His time at Elland Road may be behind him, but it appears that he hasn’t forgotten the lessons that he learned there.