Building Leeds United’s perfect footballer

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Leeds United fans have been blessed with some fantastic players in recent years, from the hay-day of Marcelo Bielsa to the present day where Daniel Farke has managed to construct a Championship juggernaut that’s hurtling full steam ahead to potential promotion.

It’s been a drastic turnaround of fortunes for the Whites who felt beleaguered in the immediate aftermath of relegation, with the re-energised group at Elland Road currently sitting at the top of the second-tier summit.

Yet, that doesn’t mean Leeds supporters don’t fondly look back to other successful sides when their minds wander – remembering the heroic exploits of icons from years gone by that are very much immortalised in the history books in West Yorkshire.

Having a look back at some of the best that have graced the Elland Road turf across the 21st century, here is what a perfect Leeds footballer could look like…

1
Brain – Pablo Hernandez

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Leeds have been blessed with some outrageously talented footballers in recent years, the sort of maverick who can conjure up a moment of magic in an instant through their sheer class alone.

Pablo Hernandez certainly fits into that mould, with the Spanish midfielder the brain of this ideal footballer as a result.

Hernandez’s standout campaign would come during the 2018/19 season, where the slick 5 foot 8 wizard would muster up 24 goals and assists across 39 Championship games.

Leeds would unfortunately go on to crash out in the playoffs at the semi-final stage to Derby County, but Hernandez would later go on to achieve promotion glory anyway.

For his immense ability to just cut open teams at will with clever and intricate passes, alongside never looking nervy donning a Leeds strip when his team needed him to be at the races, Hernandez is still fondly talked about in Leeds quarters to this day.

2
Head – Pontus Jansson

Former-Leeds-defender-Pontus-Jansson

Pontus Jansson might well be more of a forgotten name to those in West Yorkshire now however compared to Hernandez, with the Swedish defender walking out of Leeds on bad terms in 2019 and now finding himself on the books at Malmö FF.

Still, it can’t be denied that Jansson used his towering frame to his advantage during his time with the Whites.

The Scandinavian defender was an absolute brute in the Championship under Bielsa, winning 6.3 duels per game on average during his debut season on English soil.

The ex-Brentford man would also score nine goals across 120 Leeds appearances, with a fair few of those coming directly off Jansson’s head when rising highest.

3
Vision – Georginio Rutter

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The first player on the list that is currently in Farke’s electric squad, Georginio Rutter’s remarkable redemption arc at Elland Road shows no signs of stopping after initially looking like a ¬£35.5m flop.

It’s Rutter’s unbelievable displays going forward that have allowed Leeds to overwhelm the fair majority of Championship sides they’ve tussled with, with the 21-year-old attacker – who failed to score in the second half of last season – onto 18 assists now for this campaign from 40 overall appearances.

Rutter setting up chances for his teammates on a plate means his vision would be very useful for this perfect theoretical footballer, with the standout Whites man also able to turn defences inside out with a sublime set of tricks and flicks in his back pocket alongside being an assist king.

4
Strength – Lucas Radebe

Lucas-Radebe-Leeds

Leeds fans, even if they have moved on to loving the current fortunes of their side, must still feel somewhat sad about how Kalvin Phillips‘ career has taken a nosedive since he exited Elland Road for Manchester City.

At the peak of his powers donning Leeds white, the homegrown Whites product was an “aggressive” and forceful presence from holding midfield that was hard to bully off the ball, as praised by former England boss Fabio Capello.

Yet, even though Phillips was a steely player for the Whites, the strength of this ideal footballer has to come from Whites icon Lucas Radebe.

Renowned for his “aerial power” according to football journalist Ryan Baldi, Radebe would go on to accumulate 255 appearances for Leeds as a dependable and imposing presence at the back.

Leeds’ adoration for their former South African great is seen in the mural dedicated to him that is present in the West Yorkshire city today, alongside Phillips also having one.

5
Hands – Paul Robinson

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Ilian Meslier could go on to be remembered as a Whites great in-between the sticks, but Paul Robinson in his prime gets the nod over the current Leeds number one goalkeeper here.

Robinson would go on to have a well-established Premier League career off the back of his promising beginnings at Elland Road, with the ex-Tottenham Hotspur shot-stopper playing 118 games in total for the Whites which even included him scoring against Swindon Town in 2003.

The 41-time England international would pick up ten clean sheets during his peak in the 2002/03 season, before never looking back with a major move to North London in 2004.

6
Legs – Daniel James

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Daniel James, unlike his teammate in between the sticks, does make the cut here with his electric burst of “raw pace” – as hailed by former Wales boss Ryan Giggs.

The ex-Manchester United man has terrorised second-tier defences all season long with his darting runs forward, but his main improvement as a footballer under Farke has come in the fact that the end product is also there to not make the ascent forward go to waste.

The Welshman is onto 12 goals and seven assists in the Championship now, and with the Leeds number 20 still only 26 years of age, he should still have the legs to be a nuisance for defences to try and contain for many years to come.

mark-viduka-leeds-united

Another blast from the past in this selection of Leeds greats, alongside Robinson as a safe of pair gloves, Mark Viduka’s title of still being Leeds’ all-time top scorer in the Premier League to this date dictates that his deadly right foot is mentioned.

Bagging 71 goals across four impactful seasons playing for Leeds, the Australian centre-forward was a key player the Whites relied on to get them out of any mess they faced with a crucial strike.

ian-harte-leeds-united

While in more recent times supporters have witnessed the genius of Raphinha, Ian Harte was widely known throughout his career for having an unbelievable left foot when stepping up to take free-kicks, even whilst playing in defence.

When peering at his goalscoring statistics at Leeds and elsewhere, you would be mistaken for thinking you were scanning the numbers of a prolific striker.

Harte would find the back of the net an unbelievable 84 times for the various different clubs he lined up for, with 38 of those coming during the late nineties and early 2000s when wearing a Leeds strip.

A man with the cliched ‘wand of a left boot’…

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