Ben White: Do Leeds need to look elsewhere?

After Brighton have rejected a third bid from Leeds for Ben White, we’re bringing to you a couple of targets Leeds could swoop up instead!

Ben White spent every minute of Leeds United’s 2019/20 title-winning season on the pitch for Marcelo Bielsa.

At the start of the transfer window in 2019, Leeds United signed White on loan to deal with the sale of Pontus Jansson, who left due to the club requiring income to comply with FFP regulations, and due to the fallout with Marcelo Bielsa after Jansson refused to let Aston Villa score an equaliser when instructed.

Relatively unknown when he joined, White started Leeds’ first game of the season in place of Gaetano Berardi who was suspended following the play-off semi-final against Derby. White slotted perfectly into Bielsa’s side as a ball-playing defender. He played every minute of the 2019/20 season.

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Brighton have now made public the fact that they will not sell White to Leeds as they consider them a direct rival for league position, which is fair enough. White is Brighton’s player at the end of the day. Leeds have offered £25 million for him, despite his lack of Premier League experience as he is already well-in with the squad, but this was not enough to make Brighton bite.

There are, however, many other centre-back options for Leeds.

Robin Koch

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Standing at 6’3, the German International currently plays at SC Frieburg, where he has been since 2017. A centre-back by trade, who – thanks to his comfort on the ball – is also a capable defensive midfielder (much like Ben White).

He boasts an 84% pass accuracy, and has made 2.9 clearances per game, 1.1 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game in the Bundesliga 2019/20 season according to SofaScore. These are the stats Bielsa that bielsa will be focusing on, considering his need for a pacey centre back who is comfortable taking risks.

According to The Sun, Bielsa is ready to launch a £20m for the German international, who really would bolster Leeds’ defensive options. Especially with his top-level experience.

Juan Foyth

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Juan Foyth is another option Leeds could look at. The Argentine centre half has never seemed to hit the ground running at Tottenham. This is arguably due to the amount of defensive options the club have had available, including Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez etc. However, at the age of 22, Leeds fans believe Bielsa could work the same magic on Foyth as he did with Ben White. At 6’1 he possibly would be less commanding in the box as a player such as Robin Koch. However, when you look back at Bielsa’s selections, he has shown faith in 5’10 Gaetano Berardi to do a job there, so it isn’t a priority for the manager.

Hailing from Argentina, Foyth will likely, as do many Argentines, know very well of Bielsa. Knowing what he did at Newell’s Old Boys, for Argentina in the Olympics and so on.

Foyth has boasted a passing accuracy of 82%, only slightly less than that of Robin Koch. He made 1.8 tackles per game and has only been dribbled past 0.3 times per game on average. He also boasts – somewhat surprisingly for a defender – a 50% dribble success rate.

Foyth has only played 4 games for Tottenham this season, one of which was off the bench. So I’m fairly certain he could be tempted to move to a club run by a national legend in his home country, with the promise of a solid place in the starting line-up.

Lucas Martínez Quarta

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Yes, this is becoming a bit of a pattern. Leeds linked with Argentinian football players. But as with Nuno at Wolves, Bielsa will undoubtedly be an incentive for them to make the move.

In the 2019/20 Liga Profesional de Fútbol, Martínez started 19 games, playing 87 minutes on average. He has averaged an 82% passing accuracy (a familiar number), made 1.7 interceptions, 1.8 tackles and 3.6 clearances per game. Given his current team – River Plate – like to play a possession-based high energy game, the lack of tackles is hardly surprising.

He does fit all the expectations of a Bielsa centre back. Martínez just lacks the top-level experience. He has a current Market Value of £9 million according to TransferMarkt so would be cheaper than the aforementioned options. But again, is it a risk worth taking?

Rob Holding

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Rob Holding is a well-known centre back in the Premier League. He has been at Arsenal since his £2.7 million move from Bolton Wanderers in 2016.

Holding is another player who has struggled for game time this season. He has only played 8 matches, of which he started 6.

He has a current market value of £8.55 million and has the highest passing accuracy on our list at 87% this season. The defender has also made 5.4 clearances per game this term.

One concern for fans is injury-proneness. Holding was ruled out for up to 9 months following an ACL rupture in his Left Knee in the Gunners’ 2-2 draw against Manchester United in 2018, causing him to miss 37 games. Given the fact that Leeds skipper Liam Cooper is already prone to an injury or two, and missed 11 games in 2018/19 due to a hamstring then knee injury, and was out for 16 days in the 2019/20 season with a groin injury, Leeds really don’t have much space left in the medical room.

Holding would probably be the cheapest option on the list, but would, again, be a risk given his injury history.

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