Leeds United could have a real star of the future in Leo Hjelde following a string of fine first-team performances this season.
The 18-year-old colossus, who stands at 6 foot 2, was signed from Scottish giants Celtic in the summer for an undisclosed fee before going onto make his senior debut in their third-round FA Cup defeat to West Ham United last month.
He then came on as an early substitute for his Premier League debut against the same opposition a week later, this time coming out on top in a 3-2 victory.
The young Norway U21 international was possibly a standout across both matches as he filled in defensively at centre-back and left-back due to the mounting injury crisis at Thorp Arch.
His performances led to high praise indeed.
Club legend Jermaine Beckford waxed lyrical about the teenager to ‘The Leeds United podcast‘, where he said:
“The young boy, Hjelde when he came on as well, what a player he’s looking by the way.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on him. But that’s twice we’ve seen him, twice we’ve seen him against West Ham, against a very physical, very strong, very quick centre forward in Michail Antonio and a tricky player in Jarrod Bowen. I don’t want to say he had them in his pocket, but I think he did.”
Hjelde is someone who is highly thought of at Elland Road and has been earmarked as a potential leader in the future. U23 boss Mark Jackson told reporters (via LeedsLive):
“I see good leadership qualities in Leo. I have done for a while when I’ve been watching him throughout the summer, before he signed for the club.”
His former boss at Ross County, John Hughes, has even gone as far as dubbing him as the next Virgil van Dijk.
“Leo is going to be the next Van Dijk. Trust me on that.
“The quality he has shown, the physical challenge, playing real men’s football and standing up to it – it’s been a wonderful experience for Leo. He’s got massive things in front of him.”
Given such qualities and the fact that he hails from Scandinavia, first-team manager Marcelo Bielsa could well have another Pontus Jansson on his hands, especially as the former centre-back has gone onto wear the armband for his new club, Brentford.
Also dubbed a “massive talent“, it’s evident that Leeds have quite the gem on their hands and in the few times we’ve seen him, he’s already delivered at quite a remarkable level.
Bielsa should turn to Hjelde more often as the season goes on.