Phil Hay names ex-Leeds star who would've thrived under Bielsa

Former Leeds winger Max Gradel in action

Leeds correspondent Phil Hay has claimed that the club’s former winger Max Gradel would have suited current manager Marcelo Bielsa’s style of play.

What exactly did Hay say?

In his Leeds mailbag on The Athletic, Hay was asked which Leeds player of the last 16 years would have fitted into Bielsa’s system the best.

Hay responded: “I think I’ve said before that Max Gradel circa 2010-11 would be a good fit. Skilful on the ball, creative going forward and loads of energy. He’d have ticked the right boxes.”

How did Gradel fare at Leeds?

The Ivorian forward joined Leeds on a free transfer from Leicester in 2009. He spent less than two years at Elland Road, but clearly made an impression on Hay during that time.

Having managed 12 goal contributions in his maiden campaign at the club to help the side secure promotion to the Championship, Gradel took his game to a new level in 2010/11.

He scored 18 goals and produced five assists in the second tier that season, although Leeds fell agonisingly short of the play-offs, missing out by just three points.

And with that, Gradel’s time at the club was done, as he moved onto Saint-Etienne that summer.

Where would Gradel slot into the current Leeds side?

Leeds have two of their front three positions well-covered, with Patrick Bamford and Raphinha combining for 32 top-flight goal involvements this term. The left-wing has been a slightly more concerning position, though.

Jack Harrison has recorded seven goals and five assists in the Premier League, but only two of those have come in his last eight matches. Meanwhile, Helder Costa has five goal contributions to his name, with only two involvements in 2021.

It seems that Gradel would have been given the opportunity to stake his claim for the left-wing berth if he were still around in Yorkshire.

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In which season did Leeds wear this kit?

What is Gradel doing now?

Is a shock return on the cards? Almost certainly not.

Gradel has not played in England since leaving Bournemouth in 2018, and he is now representing Sivasspor over in Turkey. He also turned 33 in November, signalling that he is into the latter stages of his career.

It seems very likely that we will never get to know for certain whether he would have flourished under Bielsa.

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