Leeds boss Bielsa keen to add defensive reinforcements

Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa could add a central defender to his squad before the transfer deadline closes on Thursday.

The 63-year-old Argentinian has just two recognised senior centre-backs, Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper, at his disposal before his first competitive game in charge against Stoke on Sunday.

“(Gaetano) Berardi, Jansson, Cooper, (Conor) Shaugnessy, (Luke) Ayling – we have these players and even if we have just Cooper and Jansson as centre-backs, Shaugnessy is a defensive midfielder, but he can play as a centre-back too,” Bielsa said.

“Berardi is a full-back, but he can also play centre-back. Kalvin Phillips can also play in the centre of defence. Ayling has played as a centre-back.

“But if we could add another option in this area it would be good too.”

Bielsa has added five new players to the squad he inherited when he replaced Paul Heckingbottom in June, while a dozen have either been sold or sent out on loan.

Midfielder Lewis Baker and goalkeeper Jamal Blackman, both from Chelsea, and Manchester City winger Jack Harrison have arrived on season-long loans.

Leeds have also paid reported sums of £3million to Wolves and £7m to Middlesbrough to sign left wing-back Barry Douglas and striker Patrick Bamford respectively.

“We evaluated the season and our conclusions – mine and those of the club – were similar,” said the former Argentina and Chile boss, who apologised at his press conference for still needing a translator.

“We took decisions together and more or less for each group of three players that could go, we had a player coming in.

“So we added to the group some youngsters and we have a group of 25 players, which is enough.”

A full house at Elland Road is expected for Bielsa’s bow, but his preparations were dealt a blow this week with news midfielder Adam Forshaw will be sidelined for up to eight weeks due to an ankle injury, which requires minor surgery.

Ronaldo Vieira was sold to Sampdoria this week for a reported fee of more than £7million
Ronaldo Vieira, left, was sold to Sampdoria this week for a reported fee of more than £7million (Mike Egerton/PA)

Bielsa said Forshaw’s setback had come at an inopportune time following the club’s decision to sell fellow midfielder Ronaldo Vieira this week to Italian club Sampdoria for a reported fee of more than £7m.

“Vieira? He was a player involved in the project, but the club decided to sell him and I adapt to this decision,” Bielsa said. “I can’t say that he is not a good player, he is a good player.

“If Sampdoria bought Ronaldo it indicates he is a good player and the sale of Ronaldo happens at the same time as the injury of another player, Forshaw, in a similar position. But we can find a solution.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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