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Mixed messages about Jutgla approach as Leeds search for a new striker
Saturday, 8th Jan 2022 20:15 by Tim Whelan

As Leeds continue to run out of strikers the need to strengthen this area of the squad is becoming ever more urgent. One report from Spain says that we have turned our attention to young Barcelona forward Ferran Jutgla, but this has been flatly denied by a reporter at another publication.

Marcello Bielsa’s press conference yesterday brought us the grim news that Joe Gelhardt has become the latest player to pick up an injury in training, and he will be out for the next couple of weeks. Tyler Roberts was already going to be missing for the same period after limping off against Burnley, though it’s possible that Patrick Bamford will be back to play for at least some part of the FA Cup tie against West Ham tomorrow.

We do still have Sam Greenwood, who is perhaps more likely to get some game time tomorrow. He has been linked with a possible loan move to Nottingham Forest, but surely that won’t happen now the injury crisis has taken yet another turn for the worse. Unless of course the squad can be significantly strengthened before the end of the transfer window.

So it’s obvious that Leeds need to sign at least one more striker this month, as a back-up or stand-in for Bamford. Earlier this week we bought 18-year-old centre forward Mateo Joseph Fernandez from La Liga side, RCD Espanyol, for an undisclosed fee, and he has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract.

Last season he scored 14 goals in 21 matches for Espanyol’s Under-19 team, and Leeds under-23s coach Mark Jackson said that there has been “extensive” work from Victor Orta and club’s recruitment team, who have been monitoring the player since last summer. Fernandez will of course start with Jackson’s youth squad, but with the ongoing injury crisis we can’t rule out the possibility of Leeds having to play him in the first team at some stage.

It’s great to see this youth development, and we live in hope that Fernandez are Premier league start of the future, but the urgent need at the moment is to get a striker with a bit more experience who can help to secure the club’s Premier League status this season. Leeds are one of three clubs reported to have made enquiries about Blackburn’s Chilean striker Ben Brereton Diaz, but who have been rebuffed by Rovers’ valuation of £30million.

Diaz’ current contract runs out in the summer, but Blackburn have an option to extend it for a further year. The real problem is that he has been absolutely central to their recent run of 7 wins and 2 draws in the last nine games, which has taken them into one of the two automatic promotion places, although they have player two games more than Fulham. The 22-year-old has scored 20 league goals in their 25 games so far, which is a big improvement on last season, when he only managed 7 goals in 40 games.

This has led some fans to question why we might pay so much for a ‘one season wonder’, but perhaps he’s improving with age as he gets more experience. He’s become a cult hero at Ewood Park, with some of their fans taking Chile flags to matches, and their board might well risk losing the transfer fee for the chance of getting the far greater riches that would come with promotion to the Premiership.

Which is why speculation has moved on to 22-year-old Barcelona forward Ferran Jutgla, with Catalan newspaper El Nacional claiming that Leeds are willing to pay €10 million. Jutgla signed for Barcelona last summer, on a free transfer from Espanyol, initially as a back-up, though an injury crisis has forced the Catalan giants to play him in the first team (sounds familiar), where he has scored twice in five games.

But his opportunities for further first team action will be limited once Ansu Fati and Memphis Depay recover from injuries, and he will also face competition from new signing Ferran Torres. So he is likely to seek a move away from the Camp Nou in the near future, and Leeds have recent form with taking a chance on Barcelona reserves, having signed Junior Firpo in the summer.

Yet El Nacional’s report has been contradicted by rival newspaper Diario La Nacion, whose journalist Claudio Mauri has reported that Leeds have denied making any offer for Jutgla. If that’s true, our search for a striker will go on, but no doubt Victor Orta and his contacts will be continuing to search for the best young talent in Europe and beyond.

One player who won’t be bolstering the first team any time soon is 20-year-old Ryan Edmondson, who has joined Port Vale on loan for the remainder of the 2021/22 season. He was once thought to be one of our brightest prospects with his prolific goalscoring in the youth teams at Leeds, but he has found it much tougher at first team level in his loan spells at Aberdeen, Northampton and Fleetwood.

If Edmondson was going to establish himself as a Premier League player he would have done so by now, and although we wish him well in his latest loan move, it’s hard to see him adding to the two first team appearances he has made for Leeds.

There will no doubt be plenty more twists and turns as the current transfer window runs it’s course, and we’ll bring you the latest news as soon as we get it.


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