Saturday, August 20, 2022

Bielsa Eyeing A Reunion With Former Bilbao Ace At Leeds United: Great Move For All Parties?

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Pratyay Maitra
A sports enthusiast in his mid-twenties who reads, breathes, as well as dreams (mostly) about football and attempts to share his views with the fanatics by jotting it down. Prefers to learn through extensive interaction, communication and exploration. So don't be in a quandary and SHOOT.

Leeds United were enjoying a blistering start to the new Championship campaign under Marcelo Bielsa, the iconic Argentine who guided the Whites in securing the most successive wins in the club’s history. The momentum, however, shifted in later weeks amid injury woes as well as loss of form and the gaffer must be eyeing significant transfer business in the winter to make sure Leeds United achieve their long-awaited Premier League return. If this report is believed to be true, they are eyeing a swoop for Alaves winger Ibai Gomez who developed under Bielsa during the Athletic Bilbao tenure.

Gomez, 28, played a crucial role in Bilbao’s famous run to the Europa League final back in 2012 when El Loco was in charge. The player had a few difficult years in the recent past but exhibited excellence since completing a switch to Alaves upon their promotion to the La Liga a couple of seasons back.

He has started this campaign brightly with three goals and an assist from nine league games and proved to be instrumental in El Glorioso’ sublime form which allowed them to be competitive with the big boys Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla at the top of league standings. The Spaniard has commanding set-piece skills and his impact down the right wing is precisely what Bielsa needs right now to script his Leeds revolution.

The Whites already got a quality name in Pablo Hernandez who is being deployed in a similar role. The 33-year-old former Spain international is highly experienced, versatile and unplayable on his day, but his fitness remains a concern as he has often been sidelined through injuries since joining the West Yorkshire giants a couple of years back.

Bielsa banked on youngster Jack Harrison as the understudy, but the Manchester City loanee failed to make his mark while Hernandez was recovering from a hamstring strain. The gaffer, therefore, is apparently weighing up further reinforcements down the wide and the signing of Ibai Gomez should place them one step ahead of their fellow promotion contenders.

Gomez, however, has a history of injuries and might struggle to adjust to the pace, physicality and busy schedule of Championship football. He is also being tracked by Eibar, Real Valladolid and boyhood side Bilbao who are keen on wrapping his transfer up for free when his contract expires next summer.

Leeds, on the other hand, should splash the cash to acquire his service in January as Alaves would prefer to let him leave for something over joining league rivals on a Bosman switch. Gomez, too, should welcome the challenge of English football for the first time in his career and a reunion with Bielsa must be explored to replicate the glorious spell of his promising years.

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