Leeds United were recently linked (Northern Echo) with a move for Middlesbrough’s centre back Daniel Ayala. The Spanish defender is in the final year of his contract, and the Whites were linked with a January move for him. However, Phil Hay of the Athletic in a Q and A (subscription needed) has revealed that Ayala is not on United’s radar and a centre back is unlikely going to be a priority in January.
Leeds’ Director of Football had already indicated that the Whites would not have a busy January transfer window. It remains to be seen now whether this will come back to bite them or not in the future.
Why ignoring Ayala is the right call?
Daniel Ayala has been the mainstay at the back for the Teessiders for quite some time now, and he even has Premier League experience under his belt. The Spaniard can be termed as a classic no-nonsense defender. He is strong and committed in his duels and given his height of 6ft3; he usually ends up winning most balls in the air.
However, given the way Leeds United play, we don’t see Ayala fitting in well at the back. The centre backs need to be comfortable and brave on the ball as Bielsa wants his team to play out from the back. Ayala is not the best when it comes to showing calmness on the ball. Moreover, he is already 29, and we don’t see the Whites signing a centre back, who is of that age.
Does United have enough options at the back?
The club lost Pontus Jansson in the summer, and the Whites went on to sign Ben White on a season-long loan deal. The defender has hardly put a foot wrong at Elland Road even though he had no prior experience of playing in the Championship before. The partnership of Liam Cooper and White has looked solid for most parts, and it is understandable why the Whites might not be keen on a centre back.
Gaetano Berardi is currently the backup option, and he has filled in well from time to time. Beyond him, Bielsa can call on the services of Luke Ayling and Kalvin Phillips who have played at the back last season.
The Argentine manager relies heavily on a player’s versatility, and that is another one of the reasons why United have been able to cope with a thin squad. A defender was always unlikely to come in, and now even Phil Hay has ruled out a move for the experienced Ayala.
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