Jesse Marsch’s track record when it comes to developing young players is certainly impressive, so Leeds United’s latest up-and-coming prospects are in very good hands.
During spells in charge of Red Bull conglomerates, Salzburg and Leipzig, the American coach had many a talent at his disposal, trusting them to start for him in the senior game.
These names ranged from goalscoring superstar Erling Haaland and Patson Daka, who is now at Premier League rivals Leicester City, to mooted Whites transfer target Brenden Aaronson.
Whilst the likes of Hwang Hee-chan, Takumi Minamino, Dominik Szoboszlai, Karim Adeyemi, Christopher Nkunku and Josko Gvardiol have all benefitted from his influence.
Some of the players listed went on to score a pretty neat profit but who could follow in the footsteps of say, a Haaland, at Elland Road?
The Yorkshire giants are blessed with a pretty exciting academy set-up, where we have seen players such as Joe Gelhardt, Lewis Bate and Sam Greenwood go from starting for the youth team week-in, week-out, to earning minutes in the top-flight of the men’s game.
But it could be Leo Hjelde who benefits most from the arrival of Marsch.
The 18-year-old defender has recently been absent through injury but made his return on Monday night as the U23s were walloped by West Ham United, though these valuable minutes are positive for his comeback.
Described as “rusty” in the game by LeedsLive reporter Beren Cross, it was more of a first runout for the Nottingham-born Norwegian in two months.
Capable of playing at left-back and in the middle, Hjelde could be hugely valuable to the 48-year-old going forward, particularly into next season, where the makeup of this Leeds squad is surely set to change following a torrid season full of injury and inconsistency, leading to them largely fighting a relegation battle.
His debut for the Yorkshiremen came against West Ham United earlier this season highlighted his true potential, earning immense praise from club legend Jermain Beckford, who told the club’s official podcast:
“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.”
Meanwhile, during his time at Ross County, his former manager John Hughes likened him to a current Premier League star, which only bolsters claims that Hjelde could emerge as a big money-making sensation in the future.
“Leo is going to be the next Van Dijk. Trust me on that,” he said. “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.”
Also dubbed a “massive talent” by his ex-boss, it’s clear that Leeds – and Marsch particularly – have a special defender in their grasp. He should be in line for more game time next season as the league’s worst defence will surely be altered.
The Norway U21 international could earn Leeds a pretty penny one day.
AND in other news, Alan Nixon drops 12-word Kalvin Phillips transfer update…