According to El Gol, Athletic Bilbao’s Ander Iturraspe could join Leeds this summer.
His contract with the Basque outfit expires at the end of the season and a reunion with Marcelo Bielsa at Elland Road could prove tempting for the Spaniard, but on one condition.
With automatic promotion no longer in the frame, the Whites will be forced to fight for their long-awaited return to the Premier League via the play-offs, and Iturraspe’s arrival at Leeds is dependent on whether they reach the top-flight or not according to the report.
It seems that Leeds must clinch promotion to convince the Bilbao number 8 to move to Elland Road, presumably because, having spent all of his career in Spain, he is reluctant to relocate unless he is offered top-flight football.
The midfielder might not be the most inspiring of signings but there could be some important consequences of his arrival in Yorkshire.
Having enjoyed some of his best years under Bielsa at Bilbao, Iturraspe has established himself as a well-rounded holding midfielder who can read the game well and has a good eye for a pass.
Although he is now perhaps past his prime, that doesn’t mean that he can’t mentor the likes of Kalvin Phillips into becoming a top number 4.
Phillips has impressed greatly both in defence and at the base of midfield this campaign, with the Yorkshire Pirlo’s ability to dictate play from deep proving a big part of their success this season.
However, he looks like he could be exposed in the Premier League, with a lack of pace potentially an issue in the future should Leeds make it up to the top flight.
Iturraspe isn’t blessed with lightning feet, either, but has been able to find success as a number 4 anyway – perhaps he can help to improve the 23-year-old Leeds man’s positional sense so that he is rarely caught out.
With 232 La Liga appearances under his belt, the 6 ft 2 enforcer has plenty of top flight experience that will be of great use to Leeds should they win the play-offs. Having a player who knows what to expect from one of Europe’s top-five leagues will be crucial if the Whites are to remain in the Premier League in 2019/20, as the step up from the Championship is arguably bigger than ever.
As the debate over THAT Leeds goal rumbles on, Pl>ymaker FC’s newest squad member has his say in the video below…
Last season’s play-off winners Fulham have shown this term that spending millions upon millions on new signings isn’t a guaranteed formula for success. Iturraspe, meanwhile, ticks all the boxes if Leeds can get him on a free.
With the aforementioned Phillips likely to remain a key player for the Peacocks regardless of which tier they’re playing their football in, the arrival of Iturraspe would surely see Adam Forshaw slide down the pecking order – the former Middlesbrough man has been used as a number 4 at times this season but it’s clear that Phillips is better in that position.
With another midfielder – one whom Bielsa knows well – to compete with for a starting berth, it seems likely that the 27-year-old would be relegated to the bench or worse.