Kai Wagner is potentially the best left-back in Major League Soccer. The German has been linked with a Premier League switch to Leeds United. But is The Whites’ interest in the German justified?
It’s refreshing that Jesse March is looking towards some of his compatriots when signing players to play at Elland Road. Tyler Adams has swapped RB Leipzig for West Yorkshire. And Wagner could reunite with his former teammate Brenden Aaronson, who left the Union for Red Bull Salzburg and then opted to leave Austria for Leeds.
Kai Wagner could leave MLS to play for Leeds United F.C.
Update Kai Wagner to Leeds United ‼️ The German is unlikely to leave #DOOP today for #LUFC. Tendency is towards a winter transfer according to a source. Philadelphia Union very reluctant to let their star left-back go in the middle of the season. ⌛️ @Transfermarkt pic.twitter.com/cauHnowqME
— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) September 1, 2022
Who could be Kai Wagner’s competition?
Should Kai Wagner swap Philadelphia for Yorkshire, the German would be looking to start ahead of Pascal Struijk, as the Dutchman appears to be the first choice at present. Injuries to Stuart Dallas and Junior Firpo mean that the 23-year-old centre-back is filling in at left-back.
Stuart Dallas has been the ultimate utility player for Leeds since signing from Brentford in 2015. Previously playing as a winger, he’s slotted in as a midfielder and most recently at that left-back spot. The Northern Irishman’s provided his services in a position where there’s no real depth.
Junior Firpo seems to have been something of a flop at United so far. The former Betis and Barcelona man signed a four-year deal in the summer of 2021 for a fee of €15 million. He hasn’t justified that fee thus far with left-back proving a real problem position for the Premier League outfit.
He’s yet to impress Jesse Marsch given it was the American’s predecessor – Marcelo Bielsa – that signed him.
The 26-year-old played 24 times in his debut season in the Premier League, contributing two assists. Recovering from a knee injury, it’ll be intriguing to see if the Spaniard is willing to fight for his place after a poor campaign last season. Ultimately, he’s trying to cement his spot, as a centre-back, and before Wagner potentially arrives in Beeston.
Awesome offensively, decent defensively
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) September 11, 2022
All things considered, Wagner definitely has a case for slotting into the starting lineup straight away. And not just because Leeds are light at left-back. The 25-year-old has arguably been the Union’s standout performer this season, immense both offensively and defensively.
The perfect modern-day full-back, the German has recorded eight assists in 32 Major League Soccer matches this season, including earning two assists in a 5-1 over Orlando City SC earlier this month. The former Würzburger Kickers man averages 2.5 key passes, 2.8 crosses, and 4.3 long balls per match.
A standout offensively, it’s not just in the final third that Wagner thrives. The left-back averages 1.4 tackles per game, 1.7 interceptions, and 1.7 clearances per match. A key threat offensively, he’s also solid defensively.
Most impressively, he’s dribbled past 0.6 times on average per game, in his 2880 minutes played in MLS so far this season. He’s a key element as to why Philly has conceded just 22 goals, the best defensive record in the division. Lastly, he has played a big role in where the Philadelphia Union currently stands in the MLS standings. The Union clinched their spot in the 2023 Concacaf Champions League with a draw on the road against Atlanta United FC.
Is January the window where Wagner moves on?
With two games to go, all focus should be on securing the top spot in the Eastern Conference with Philadelphia Union. Just a point against Charlotte will successfully do so, with the Eastern Conference leaders also competing for the Supporters Shield.
Qualification to the CONCACAF Champions League has already been clinched. With The Union having never won the MLS Cup, they’re in with a chance of winning their first MLS Cup title in December.
Should Philly succeed, he’ll leave a legend. Already a winner of one Supporters’ Shield, there’s another potential two trophies to be won. Having arrived as an unknown from the third tier of German football, Wagner could leave a legend in Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, Wagner and the Union narrowly lost to NYCFC in the MLS Cup Final. Still, Wagner did help Philadelphia make their first-ever MLS Cup Final, and therefore, also made the 2023 Concacaf Champions League.