Forget Cresswell: Bielsa could unearth Leeds’ next Liam Cooper in 6 ft 2 leader – opinion

Forget Cresswell: Bielsa could unearth Leeds’ next Liam Cooper in 6 ft 2 leader – opinion

Amid Charlie Cresswell’s recent rise into a first-team star at Leeds United in the past couple of weeks, Marcelo Bielsa will no doubt be keeping a close eye on the academy for could who be the next breakout talent from Thorp Arch.

Back in June, reports claimed that the Whites were monitoring Celtic starlet Leo Hjelde ahead of a potential summer move for him, and the Yorkshire club eventually got a deal done for the teenager.

While he may only have recently turned 18, Hjelde is clearly someone with a lot of potential, having been deployed in numerous positions already, including at left-back and further forward in left-midfield.

And, after seeing him score his first professional goal against Kilmarnock earlier last season, his manager, John Hughes, was quick to shower him with praise.

He said: “He found himself out of the team a little bit, then came on there and got his goal. He’s destined for big, big, big things. He won’t be far away from the Celtic first-team when he goes back, but this is what he needs to be doing.”

Since then, Hjelde has of course made the switch to Elland Road, and has already been making waves at academy level, taking over the leadership mantle from Cresswell in the process.

Speaking after the U23s’ 3-2 win over Oldham in the Papa John’s Trophy earlier this week, Mark Jackson raved: “It was a test for him tonight, to come in and take the armband and lead the team. I challenged him to lead the team and organise, it’s a new system of play for him to get used to so that challenge as well is going to be difficult for him but I’ve got full confidence and I see the qualities in him, which hopefully I can help nurture.

“I did that a lot with Charlie Cresswell throughout the time I worked with him from when he was an U-16, through the 18s and in the 23s as well and I see certain qualities in Leo as well.”

With Liam Cooper the current club captain having turned 30 this past August, Bielsa may be looking at Cresswell as the man to take over the Scotland international’s throne as the next leader of the Whites defence.

But in Hjelde, he could have another hugely exciting option to take that massive leap, and given the fact Jackson has already trusted him to take the armband just months after his initial arrival in Yorkshire, speaks volumes of the natural leadership instincts he possesses.

The 6 foot 2 ace could become a huge part of Leeds’ future going forward.

Meanwhile, Leeds could make a short-term signing in this ace…