Leeds United enjoy a growing reputation for being a team who offer promising young talents a clear route to first-team football, with the likes of Joe Gelhardt, Sam Greenwood, Crysencio Summerville and Illan Meslier having all joined the club in the last few years before quickly establishing themselves as regulars in the Whites’ senior squad.
This has subsequently seen Victor Orta be able to convince even more teenage prospects to make the move to Elland Road ahead of some of their Premier League rivals, with the director of football having added West Ham United’s Sonny Perkins, Manchester City’s Darko Gyabi and FC Zurich’s Wilfried Gnonto to Jesse Marsch’s ranks in the summer transfer window.
And, while it is undeniable that both Perkins and Gyabi are two players who Leeds supporters can be extremely excited about, it is arguably Gnonto who could well prove to have the highest ceiling of the trio – as the 18-year-old very much looks as if he has the potential to become something of a world-beater in LS11.
Indeed, over his 33 Super League appearances – only nine of which came as starts – for Zurich last season, the £9m-rated centre-forward was in remarkable form, scoring eight goals, providing three assists and creating four big chances for his teammates, as well as taking an average of 1.4 shots, making 0.8 key passes and completing 0.9 dribbles per game.
For reference, should the teenager have returned these numbers for Leeds last season, he would have ranked joint-second for goals, joint-second for assists and joint-fourth for big chances created in the Premier League.
Furthermore, the player who Roberto Mancini claimed is “like few others” has also already made an impact in the international game, becoming Italy’s youngest-ever goalscorer via his strike in a Nations League fixture against Germany earlier this summer.
Indeed, the Italy manager quite clearly has extremely high hopes for the 18-year-old, stating of Gnonto earlier this year (via Leeds Live):
“He’s so quick and can do everything. He’s a forward with a quality that we didn’t have before and he will improve a lot… For his age, he knows how to play football like few others and he is very quick. If he develops without too much pressure, he can show us what quality he has.”
As such, while it is undeniable that Leeds currently have a number of young and exciting attackers on their books, should Gnonto continue at his current rate of development, he could well prove to be the most talented of the bunch – a prospect that is sure to be incredibly tantalising for Marsch, Orta and supporters of the club alike.