Leeds United finally ended their almost two-decade-long wait for Premier League football after winning the Championship last season. The Whites, with Marcelo Bielsa at their helm, played eye-catching football as they dominated the Championship.
Now, with Premier League football back, they have been quietly going around their business and making shrewd moves in the transfer market. Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol is the latest name that is reportedly close to securing a move to Elland Road.
So, who is the 18-year-old wonderkid?
Josko Gvardiol: The Future of Croatian Defence
Josko Gvardiol was born in the Croatian capital city of Zagreb in 2002. He started his football journey at the age of six after joining the youth academy of local club NK Tresnjevka. After almost half a year, the talented youngster joined Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb in 2010. His performances during Dinamo Zagreb’s quarter-final run in the 2019/20 UEFA Youth League saw Gvardiol coming under the gaze of Europe’s elite.
Gvardiol quickly rose through the ranks and made his debut for the reserve side last season. His impressive performances for the reserves saw the defender making his debut for the senior team on October 18 last year. In just under a year since making his debut as a 17-year-old, the Croatian defender has made seventeen appearances for Dinamo Zagreb.
The defender is a Croatian U21 international after making his debut for the team last year.
Josko Gvardiol is a modern-day centre-back. He reads the game well and loves getting involved during the build-up process. His athleticism and physical attributes help the teenager cover lots of ground and feel comfortable during contact situations. He is also capable of playing with both his legs and shows good composure with the ball at his feet.
The 18-year-old is a mixture of a playmaker and a dominant well-rounded defender. He has a great vision and a passing range that is normally attributed to a playmaker. Gvardiol also possesses a great technique and is quite comfortable initiating attacks from deep.
But, he also has excellent defensive skills. In the limited number of first-team football he has played, Gvardiol has shown excellent ball recovery skills. The teenager has also proven himself to be comfortable in the air. He has also averaged good interception and tackling in a short period.
Gvardiol has also shown the versatility to his game. A natural left-footer, the 18-year-old has filled in and played as a left-back for the junior and senior sides.
Verdict on Josko Gvardiol
Josko Gvardiol is an excellent addition to any side that he joins. At just 18, Gvardiol is just in his infancy and has a long future ahead of him. He is already earmarked as the future of Croatian defence.
At Leeds, Gvardiol could be the immediate replacement and successor to long-time serving defender Gaetano Berardi. Moreover, his skillset and stats show a player that fits well into the Bielsa system. The major area concern, though, would be his lack of first-team action, but then again, Gvardiol has shown footballing acumen far beyond his age.
Leeds are likely to get an uncut diamond, but with an ace manager like Bielsa at the helm, Gvardiol could come out of his cocoon and take the Premier League by storm.
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