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Leeds could unearth the next Rio Ferdinand in Charlie Cresswell

Leeds United have enjoyed a solid start to their 2022/23 Premier League campaign, with Jesse Marsch’s side currently sitting in 11th place in the top flight standings – having won two, drawn two and lost two of their opening six fixtures of the season.

However, a humbling 5-2 defeat at Brentford last time out highlighted the fact that, should the 48-year-old manager wish to give his side the best possible chance of a top-half finish this term, work still needs to be done on his first-team squad.

Indeed, centre-back has already proven something of a problem position for the American this season, with neither Robin Koch nor Deigo Llorente particularly impressing in the absence of Liam Cooper – who is yet to feature in the league due to injury.

Although, while the obvious solution to this problem may be the signing of a new centre-back in the January transfer window, Marsch could already possess the answer to his prayers in a player much closer to home – Charlie Cresswell.

A product of the Whites academy, the defender first caught the eye under Marcelo Bielsa, making his club debut in a Carabao Cup defeat to Hull City as an 18-year-old back in 2020, before featuring in his first Premier League fixture in September of last year.

The 20-year-old went on to make a further four top-flight appearances last season, as well as becoming a regular in Marsch’s first team towards the end of the campaign – having at least a spot on the bench in every league fixture under the American.

However, it has undoubtedly been since Cresswell’s season-long loan switch to Millwall when the centre-back has most demonstrated his enormous potential – having immediately become an important player within Gary Rowett’s side.

Indeed, over his eight Championship appearances this season, the £2.7m-rated talent has helped his side keep one clean sheet, as well as made an average of 1.9 interceptions, 1.6 tackles, 1.6 clearances and won 7.6 duels – at a success rate of 63% – per game.

The defender has also impressed in an attacking capacity, scoring three goals and providing one assist, in addition to taking an average of 1.3 shots, making 0.4 key passes and completing 0.5 dribbles – at a success rate of 100% – per fixture.

These returns have seen the player who Rowett dubbed “quality” average an extremely impressive SofaScore match rating of 7.16, not only ranking him as Millwall’s best performer in the league but also as the joint 31st-best player in the division as a whole.

As such, it is no wonder why midfielder Billy Mitchell claimed the youngster has taken “everyone by surprise” in south London, as it has become evident that the England U21 international is a hugely talented and incredibly exciting young centre-back.

Indeed, should the 20-year-old continue his remarkable development, there would appear no reason the £5.4k-per-week gem could not go on to become the Whites’ next Rio Ferdinand – who highly impressed for Leeds before securing a £30m move away.

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There are clear similarities between the two, with the former England international being well known for his ball-playing ability and threat in the opposition penalty area – scoring 13 goals and registering 12 assists in his career.

The same could easily be said about Cresswell, with Rowett having already raved about the youngster’s impressive “range of passing” during his time at Millwall, while his three goals in eight Championship fixtures speak for his threat in the final third.

As such, not only would the Whites’ academy prospect be a clear solution to the club’s current centre-back woes, he could well go on to become Leeds’ next Ferdinand-esque defender – a prospect sure to excite the Elland Road faithful and Marsch alike.