For Leeds United, their January transfer window has been a quiet affair. They have been linked with plenty of new faces but we know this is a period Victor Orta and Marcelo Bielsa generally ignore.
We’ve not seen any outgoings yet either, that’s despite pleas for Helder Costa to move on before the window commenced.
That being said, with contracts expiring in the summer, players are free to discuss terms with clubs abroad. That’s been the case for Gjanni Alioski and if you believe reports, he’s already wrapped up an agreement to sign for Galatasaray in the summer.
Leeds guru Phil Hay revealed the Whites are still discussing new terms for the left-back but if he does indeed leave, then Bielsa must begin to unshackle a player in the academy as his successor.
Now, Leif Davis may appear to be the most ready-made choice given he’s already appeared in the first-team, but we think the duty should be handed to another young player in Niall Huggins.
The 20-year-old has never made a senior appearance for the club but he’s made some important strides in recent months. The left-back penned a new deal in December and was Leeds’ 19th man in the squad when they faced Everton earlier this term.
Clearly, he’s a player that Bielsa likes and it’s unsurprising when you assess Huggins’ versatility. He has played at left-back, left-wing back, right-back and even further forward as a striker.
However, it’s in a more defensive role where he’s impressed the most. Kalvin Phillips is also a fan of the youngster, revealing he could be set for a first-team role in the not too distant future.
He commented last summer: “We’ve got a few younger lads called Niall Huggins and Alfie McCalmont. They’re really good young players as well. They’ll be in the team in the next year or so, definitely.”
Playing further forward, he once scored 12 times in 29 outings for the U18s across a single season but he’s now being deployed in defence for Mark Jackson’s U23s. This has significantly developed his understanding of the game and judging by his qualities, he’d make a perfect Alioski replacement.
FocusOnLeeds wrote last year: “His pace across a short distance combined with his tenacious attitude means that he’s a real problem for defenders.”
Those words have been backed up by his performances in 2020/21 for the academy. During the U23s 4-1 dispatching of Burnley a few weeks ago, Leeds Live reporter Joe Donnohue said: “Niall Huggins has been a constant thorn in Burnley’s side, sprinting all over the pitch, winning fouls and maintaining his balance well in challenges.”
Meanwhile, Joe Mewis of the same publication gave Huggins the following review after Leeds’ Papa John’s Trophy defeat to Blackpool in November: “Injected energy and pace to the side after his half-time introduction. Came in at left-back but was constantly trying to attack and move the ball forwards.”
That’s a massive plus point for Bielsa, someone who loves his full-backs to bomb forward.
If Alioski does indeed leave, Huggins would represent a cut-price way of replacing him. He simply has to be readied for first-team action.