When it comes to the January transfer window, there is unlikely a period of time that Marcelo Bielsa and Victor Orta despise so much.
In the last two years it has been full of crushed excitement. In January 2019, a deal had all been wrapped up to sign Daniel James from Swansea. The electrifying winger was pictured at Elland Road and even signed the contract before the Swans failed to pick up the phone and sanction the move.
Consequently, it will take some very special circumstances for Leeds to do anything this January. Fortunately, those conditions may be met in Riqui Puig.
The Barcelona youngster’s contract is up at the end of the season and Leeds were first linked with the player towards the start of the month. However, they are now facing competition from Arsenal for his signature in what will be a hotly contested battle.
The £18m-rated midfielder is a highly promising individual and possesses all the characteristics needed to thrive in Bielsa’s system.
Writing about Puig on The Athletic in December 2018, journalist Kevin Williams said: “Puig plays on that weird tightrope like Iniesta, even as we should shun any and all comparisons. When he has the ball, he moves, makes the ball move as though they both have somewhere to go: Forward. Puig rarely plays a pass that isn’t forward.”
This is a glistening review of a youngster who has only got better in the last two years. In fact, he’s pretty similar to a Leeds player of days gone by – Samu Saiz. Of course, Puig’s potential is far higher but Orta could finally replace the diminutive Saiz with the Barca starlet.
Why is this? Well, they are both creative dynamos with the ability to burst forward with their technical ability.
Let’s focus on Saiz’s final campaign at Leeds here. He amassed 1.5 dribbles per game in the Championship, being fouled 1.8 times and providing the same number of key passes a match.
Now, if we analyse Puig’s 2019/20 season, you’ll see the almighty parallels. The 21-year-old registered 1.1 dribbles at a higher level and provided 1.7 key passes in the Champions League.
It’s clear to see why Leeds need to beat Arsenal to his signature. Puig is a wonderful ball carrier.