Amid all the excitement of Leeds United’s superb finish to their first season back in the Premier League, there was one real moment of sadness and regret, with Pablo Hernandez now having played his final game for the club.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side confirmed that the veteran Spaniard would leave Elland Road following the conclusion of the season, and while the play-maker wasn’t exactly a key member of the first-team this past campaign, he will no doubt leave a major void.
And if Bielsa is looking for a player to potentially replace Hernandez in the long-term, both in terms of his attacking inspiration and quality, then academy starlet Sam Greenwood may well be that player.
The 19-year-old only joined the Whites’ youth system last summer, but he has been a revelation for the club’s U23s, helping them to the Premier League 2 Division 2 title.
He managed 12 goals in 18 games, and while he played as a number nine for the majority of the season, he was deployed as both a number ten and as a central midfield for several games too, and was far more effective.
In the six games he played as an attacking midfielder, Greenwood struck four times, while he also scored in the only game that he played in the middle of the park – it was quite telling, that Mark Jackson appeared to drag the teenager further back towards the closing stages of the season, perhaps so he could get on the ball more and then break into the box to score a la Hernandez.
The Athletic’s Phil Hay has previously been very effusive in his praise of Greenwood, saying: “He’s started really well at Leeds and he was very well thought of at Arsenal, and they weren’t rushing to get him out (of) the door this summer. From what we’ve seen of him so far, his movement and his finishing and everything else, he looks like a very natural striker.”
But while he may have those “natural” striking instincts, perhaps Bielsa could pull off a tactical masterstroke and slowly mould him into a number ten, just like Jackson has done in some games with the U23s – particularly with the “movement” that Hay talks about.
Greenwood could well end up being the Hernandez heir that Leeds fans may have thought they would never see again.
Meanwhile, Leeds United have been handed a major boost…