The Athletic’s Phil Hay has delivered some insight into why Leeds United opted against signing Club Brugge starlet Noa Lang in the summer transfer window.
The Telegraph had claimed that Marcelo Bielsa’s side have been been watching the 21-year-old ahead of a potential move, before Sport/Voetbalmagazine (via Sport Witness) revealed that the Whites remained interested in signing Lang before deadline day.
But, in the end, the Yorkshire club decided to land Dan James from Manchester United, and Hay has now revealed why despite Victor Orta’s liking of Lang, Bielsa himself wasn’t too keen on him.
He said: “People will have seen Noa Lang linked all the way through the window, and the reality with Lang is that (Victor) Orta thinks a lot of him, and Orta thinks he could be very good value and he tends to have a good eye for a player – particularly a prospect – and he felt that that was worth investigating, worth setting up potentially for Bielsa to sign if Bielsa liked him.
“There were things about Lang’s game that Bielsa wasn’t totally sold on – he wasn’t saying that Lang in any way was a poor player, but I think defensively and tracking back wasn’t quite right, and you know that that matters to Bielsa.”
Able to play anywhere across the frontline, Lang showed he has a real eye for goal in his loan spell at Brugge last season, bagging 17 goals and providing a further 11 assists in just 37 games, including netting in the Champions League.
With the volume of goals and assists that Lang delivered last season, and with him still being very much in the infancy of his career, a move for the youngster would surely have been the kind of exciting one that would have had fans buzzing, not just this season, but in the years to come too.
The £19.8m-rated Lang looks to be the kind of player who makes a real impact in the final third and is someone who produces a genuine end product, rather than just flashes of promise.
Given that he only recently turned 22, Lang could have been the kind of long-term project who thrived under Bielsa and blossomed into a real star at both club and international level.
Compare that to James, who despite playing 74 games for United, has only managed to score nine goals and provide another nine assists. That is a measly record for someone who plays in a very offensive role for a side as good as the Red Devils, and while some of those appearances of course were off the bench, his end product and consistency is something that is very lacking.
Given his Premier League experience, Bielsa went with the more known quantity in James, and while that may be the safer option, it may not be the right one.
Lang looks to just have a higher ceiling than James, and this is a moment where Bielsa could have just taken a little bit of a gamble and gone with the more exciting player to see if he could have worked his magic to iron out the issues that he supposedly wasn’t a fan of.