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Leeds: Orta showing “interest” in Kai Wagner

Leeds United have been linked with a move for Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner in recent times, with the Elland Road outfit seeking a long-term solution at left-back.

What’s the word?

The Athletic’s Phil Hay revealed earlier this week that the 25-year-old is a player that Whites sporting director Victor Orta is ‘looking at’ ahead of the January transfer window, with a new left-sided full-back seemingly one of the priorities in the New Year.

The German ace – who has just a year remaining on his existing deal with his current side – had previously been a reported target for the Yorkshire side during the summer, with Jesse Marsch and co having seemingly been keeping a close eye on his progress of late.

Transfer insider Dean Jones – speaking to GIVEMESPORT – has now delivered his verdict on that potential move, with the respected journalist stating:

“Obviously, there is an interest here, so that’s a good start. Marsch is going to have extensive contacts and understanding of the player through people he knows in terms of whether he is a good fit.”

Struijk alternative

A new left-back is firmly on the agenda for Orta in 2023 following the continued woes of former Barcelona man, Junior Firpo, with the underwhelming Spaniard having been hampered by injury since his £12.8m switch last summer.

That absence has seen Pascal Struijk take on something of a makeshift role so far this term, with the 23-year-old having performed admirably with two goals and one assist to his name in 14 Premier League appearances this season.

Nevertheless, it is far from an ideal scenario having to play the Dutchman out of position for an extended period of time, with the versatile ace having typically been deployed at centre-back or in the centre of midfield during his time in England thus far.

As such, the addition of Wagner could well see Leeds able to secure a more natural fit at full-back, with the 6-foot sensation offering genuine attacking quality as a result of his devastating threat down the flanks.

That impact in the final third is evidenced by the fact that the impressive asset registered eight assists in his 33 outings in the most recent MLS campaign, with his overall tally for the club standing at four goals and 21 assists in 128 games across all fronts.

Such attacking brilliance – which has seen him described as a “cheat code” by journalist Chuck Booth – is also illustrated by the fact that Wagner ranks in the top 3% among those in his position in the ‘Men’s next eight competitions’ for assists, as per FBref, while he can also put in a shift defensively as he ranks in the top 12% for interceptions.

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The aforementioned Struijk, by contrast, ranks in the bottom 21% in Europe for assists and in just the top 23% for interceptions made, showcasing that he may not be quite as effective away from his usual central defensive berth.

Having missed out on getting Wagner through the door during the recent window, Orta could put that error behind him and move swiftly once the market re-opens next month, with the Philadelphia ace seemingly the ideal alternative to Struijk at left-back.