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Assessing Leeds’ best academy products of this millennium

As the only professional football club in a city with over 800,000 people living in it, you can understand why Leeds have been so prolific in producing homegrown talent over the years.

The likes of Lewis Cook, Charlie Taylor and Sam Byram have all gone on to play Premier League football after coming through at Elland Road in recent years, but none of those are in the conversation for United’s best academy graduate since the turn of the millennium.

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Indeed, back when Leeds were a Premier League outfit they seemed to have a new talented young star coming through every other week – be it Alan Smith or Paul Robinson, United had something special brewing.

However, the aforementioned players aren’t the stars we’re going to be looking at today as there are three other talents who have come through the ranks at Elland Road and gone on to do great things.

James Miner and Fabian Delph quickly come to mind when you think of Leeds academy graduates, but let’s not forget what a stellar career Aaron Lennon has had since leaving Yorkshire.

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Strangely, Milner and Delph’s career’s mirror one another, starting at Leeds before eventually ending up at Aston Villa, then making a switch to Man City, being shifted to left-back when a spot wasn’t readily available for them and ending up at a Merseyside club.

As you could imagine, a stint with City in the 2010s would be fruitful for any player, and these two both have a pair Premier League medals each to show for their time at the Etihad.

Lennon went another way as he joined Tottenham, and while a spell at the London club didn’t bring about any trophies, he was still an excellent player individually, garnering £20m interest from Real Madrid back in 2008.

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All three men were capped by England with Milner playing the most, turning out 61 times for the Three Lions.

Delph was a handy utility man for England for a number of years, while Lennon was one of many fast, tricky wingers of the time trying to make an impression down the right alongside the likes of Theo Walcott and Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Despite the trio being fantastic assets to their respective clubs, Milner is the only one to have received any individual accolades from the PFA, making his way into their Team of the Year once while also winning a Young Player of the Year award.

So, who was the best? All three are of course, supremely talented players, turning out for some of the biggest clubs in the country, but when you take into account individual accolades, trophy haul and overall impact you have to say that Milner just about edges it.

The midfielder has not only won a Champions League, but he’s shone on the biggest stage, breaking the record for most assists in a single campaign in that competition, and it’s a true testament to his quality that he earned 61 caps during a time England were spoilt for choice in midfield.

Milner has to be considered Leeds’ best academy product of the past 20 years.

In other news, one man looks ready to be Leeds’ unsung hero in the Premier League.

Article title: Assessing Leeds’ best academy products of this millennium

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