Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa can sign a dream Kiko Casilla replacement in Newcastle United goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.
The Yorkshire club confirmed in recent days that Casilla has jetted back to his native Spain to join Elche on a season-long loan, thus leaving them short of a number two goalkeeper ahead of the new Premier League campaign.
According to The Athletic’s Phil Hay, the Whites are targeting a move for Magpies shot-stopper Woodman, with the club said to be “admirers” of the 6 foot 2 ace.
Given his off-field controversy, along with Illan Meslier’s emergence onto the scene as Leeds’ number one, it’s safe to say things haven’t gone quite so well for Casilla over these past couple of years.
Speaking after Leeds’ FA Cup loss to Crawley Town last season, journalist Daniel Storey raged: “I think Kiko Casilla was the other game-changer in a negative sense because I don’t think he should be playing for Leeds for non-football reasons, but he probably shouldn’t be playing for Leeds for football reasons after today.”
Meanwhile, Leeds TV podcaster Oscar Mario simply branded him a “complete liability“.
The £9m-rated Woodman, on the other hand, has previously been described as “unbelievable” by Lee Clark, who coached him at Kilmarnock and was very effusive in his praise of how he has developed.
He told The Athletic: “I knew he was an outstanding young keeper and had all the attributes. The tough thing was I had an experienced goalkeeper in Jamie MacDonald in the team — that was causing one or two issues in terms of what I wanted to do.
“But I knew I was bringing a talented goalkeeper in. Freddie’s communication, his shot-stopping and his distribution skills are second to none. He’s an unbelievable professional and works extremely hard at his game.”
Woodman didn’t miss a single game last season for Swansea during his loan spell with the Championship club, keeping 21 clean sheets in his 48 outings for the Swans.
The goalkeeper’s form in recent years has also earned calls for him to be included in Gareth Southgate’s England setup – a real indication of the kind of high esteem in which he is held.
At only 24, he’s a decade younger than Casilla – who earns £40,000 per week – and would offer Bielsa a much fresher option to compete with Meslier for the number one jersey at Elland Road.
With Casilla’s contract at Leeds only expiring in the summer of 2023, a loan spell at Elche won’t see him depart for good when he returns next year. However, if the Whites manage to land Woodman this summer, then Bielsa can finally let Casilla go permanently.