With suggestions that Leeds United are after a new centre-half in the summer transfer window, Marcelo Bielsa may be better off thinking again, and looking to one of the club’s burgeoning academy prospects: Charlie Cresswell.
Reports in recent days and weeks have claimed that the Premier League side are interested in Torino centre-back Nicolas Nkoulou, whose contract with the Italian team is set to expire come the end of the season, thus allowing him to join on a free transfer.
But, rather than bringing in a soon-to-be 31-year-old, Leeds could in actual fact unearth their next Ben White, in Cresswell.
White was a huge presence for Leeds in their promotion-winning campaign last season, playing the full 90 minutes in every single game in the Championship.
In Cresswell, he appears to be tailor-made to step into those shoes given his style of play as a ball-playing centre-half.
Speaking about Cresswell earlier this season, Noel Whelan was glowing in his praise about the youngster, saying: “He is the future, he’s one for the future. At that centre-half position he’s got great attributes, he’s very calm on the ball, a great size to him, he’s quick, he can head, he can pass. He’s the modern-day, young centre-half.”
The 18-year-old is one of the rising stars of the Whites’ academy system, and only penned a new contract with the Elland Road side back in November, signing a new two-and-a-half year deal.
And, after the U23s beat Fulham 7-1 this term, Leeds Live hailed the centre-back in their post-match player ratings: “His security on the ball was convincing, even indulging in a Cruyff turn inside his own defensive third to evade danger in the second half.
“Perhaps the best action of his during the game was the frequent interceptions he made. Cresswell read the play excellently, seizing on forward passes as Fulham looked to break, turning the visitors’ attacks into countering opportunities for the Whites.”
That ability to read the game and make interceptions is somewhat reminiscent of White’s performances at Elland Road last season, who averaged 2.5 interceptions per game in the Championship.
So, rather than bringing in another centre-back into the ranks, Bielsa could be pleasantly surprised by promoting Cresswell into the fold. He’s got all the attributes that made White a big success at Elland Road, in terms of being the “modern-day, young centre-half” as Whelan says.
Now is just about being given an opportunity to shine at the highest level.