Leeds United have shown an interest in Napoli midfielder Eljif Elmas, according to The Athletic, and he’s exactly the kind of player that Marcelo Bielsa would absolutely love to have at Elland Road.
In a piece written by The Athletic ahead of the EUROs, they said of Elmas: “Pivotal to the Macedonian operation, but out of sync with the demands of Gattuso at Napoli last season, Elmas will use the Euros as a showcase of his skills.
“With a contract until 2025 it’s likely to take an offer in excess of the €17m plus add-ons that the Italians paid Fenerbahce in 2019. Over the last 12 months Leeds, Benfica and Borussia Dortmund are understood to have shown an interest in a mixture of loan or permanent deals for Elmas — who doesn’t have a release clause in his contract — but others have him on their radar too.”
Despite being only 21, Elmas has proven to be a crucial part of Napoli’s first-team squad in Serie A, making 44 appearances in all competitions last season, and is equally important at international level.
He will be a part of the North Macedonia side that are involved in EURO 2020, and his head coach, Igor Angelovski, has raved about the kind of potential he possesses.
He said: “Elmas is a good guy and a very strong player. He has physique, technical skills, he is fast, ball to foot, but above all, he is fast with the mind and has a very strong character. He was born to become a great player and will become one of the best…The boy has the characteristics to work on himself and become stronger and stronger.”
Meanwhile, his agent added: “I think Napoli have a jewel. A young footballer, a leader of his national team who often scores goals.”
That ability to score goals from midfield, and the fact he’s as versatile as they come – he played in four different positions for Napoli last season including in the middle of the park and out wide – makes him a dream for Bielsa.
A ‘one to watch’ profile done by ESPN ahead of the EUROs said: “Despite his young age, Elmas has already accumulated 27 senior caps for his country and is comfortable playing either as an inverted winger or central attacking midfielder. A strong-running midfielder, capable with either foot, he’s skilled at making purposeful runs into the box and is a fine finisher when he gets on the end of crosses or picks up loose balls. He scored the winner in the famous 2-1 victory against Germany in March.”
Rated at £43m by CIES, the 21-year-old appears to have the engine, the intelligence and the versatility to be a real hit at Elland Road under Bielsa.
The Leeds boss would no doubt love his “strong-running”, and the fact he’s “fast with the mind” – traits that make him perfect for Bielsa-ball.