Leeds United – and Victor Orta in particular – have formed something of a habit of targeting and subsequently signing some of the most exciting young talent English football has to offer in recent seasons, with the likes of Joe Gelhardt, Sam Greenwood, Lewis Bate and Darko Gyabi having all arrived at Elland Road over the past two years.
However, while all four of these aforementioned starlets have all gone on to feature in at least one of the Whites’ Premier League matchday squads under the management of Jesse Marsch, there is one recent young signing who is yet to get a look in at senior level, despite arguably being one of the club’s most exciting prospects at present.
Indeed, after arriving at Thorp Arch from West Ham United on a free transfer this summer, Sonny Perkins has made an instant impact within Michael Skubala’s U21 side, having scored five goals over four Premier League 2 appearances so far this season – returns that see him rank as the PL2’s joint-top scorer alongside fellow Leeds attacker Mateo Joseph.
The 18-year-old’s clinical nature in the final third has already seen him come in for a considerable amount of praise, with Skubala stating of the striker after his brace in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa last month:
“He’s a goal machine, he loves scoring goals. He’s working on other parts of his game that he still needs to improve, but Sonny’s not had the best pre-season so he’s slowly becoming stronger and faster but two great finishes and that’s what Sonny’s all about.”
Harry Brooks – a private coach of the England U18 international – took his praise of Perkins to another level in an interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post back in July, going as far as to compare the teenager’s ability on the ball to that of Barcelona legend, Andres Iniesta.
Brooks said: “A player like Sonny, they come around every so often – not that often. And they’re usually the ones to break into first-team football earlier on than the others. He’s got the mentality and the qualities to cope with that.
“The first time I worked with Sonny, it was a few years ago, my colleague and I did a group session for top young talents. And there was some incredible talent there, players from Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur – top clubs. And, after a couple of minutes, my colleague and I were like, ‘wow, this is a real footballer’.
“I don’t like comparing players but his style is like an Iniesta with size and power, and the ability to drive and gallop. He’s got incredible feet. Really smooth, he’s creative. As a ball striker, he’s probably the best ball striker I’ve ever worked with. Happy off both feet and a real natural footballer where you want him to get on the ball as often as he can.
“As a character he’s fantastic. He’s got magic, intelligence and football ability – not many players have magic nowadays, but he certainly does. I’m looking forward to seeing the season he’s going to have.”
As such, while Perkins certainly has a long way to go before he can sincerely be compared to the Spaniard who scored 57 goals, registered 138 assists and won every club trophy possible over his 674 appearances for Barca, considering the 18-year-old’s returns in U21 football so far, Brooks’ assessment of the forward does not appear overly wide of the mark at present.
Indeed, if the former West Ham starlet can continue his early form for the youth side after being unleashed by Marsch in the senior squad – something, it would seem, is likely in the very near future – the 48-year-old could well unearth an Iniesta-esque talent at Elland Road, a prospect that is sure to excite everyone involved with the Whites.