Despite the fact that Leeds United have already spent a fair amount of money this summer, they are still not content and are continuing to push for new arrivals before the transfer window slams shut.
With the Peacocks keen to build a squad capable of competing in the Premier League, they have turned to the transfer market this summer and brought in some new faces. But not just any new faces, they have been able to land Rodrigo Moreno from Valencia and Robin Koch from Freiburg among others. Oh, and Diego Llorente also completed his switch to Elland Road recently as well, joining from Real Sociedad.
Not bad for a newly-promoted club, eh?
But one of the areas that Marcelo Bielsa is still looking to strengthen in the remainder of the window is the midfield. It’s been made perfectly clear that the club are indeed after a new midfielder to increase his options.
Rodrigo De Paul has been heavily linked, but Udinese’s valuation of the player has seen the move stall in recent times. Another name that has been mentioned is Rafinha Alcántara, but they have now set their sights on Bayern Munich‘s Michael Cuisance.
Leeds have already made a €20m (£18.1m) offer for the midfielder, while personal terms have also already been agreed with Cuisance as he is keen to play regular first team football. The majority of Leeds fans were excited by the links with De Paul (and rightly so), but Cuisance could be just the man they need to strengthen in the centre of the park.
After all, Bielsa has personally identified him as a target.
The obvious place to start would be his style of play and how he would fit into the midfield. Sure, Pablo Hernandez may have won the Player of the Year award last season for United, but now 35, Bielsa has needed to manage his minutes. And following their return to the top flight, the need for a long-term successor has become greater than ever.
Leeds have already shown this term that they know where the goal is, in fact their tally of eight goals this season is the third most in the division. The goal threat isn’t an issue, but there is a need to bring in a more box to box player, who can split defences open with incisive passes while also providing stability in the midfield.
This is what Cuisance can bring. Drawing comparisons with Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, the left-footed Frenchman has the ability to play either in an attacking midfield role or slightly deeper as well. Not only can he carve open a team with a perfectly weighted through ball, he also has the quality to spread play and execute cross-field passes as well as having the skill to skip past an opponent with ease.
Equally, however, he will bring stability to the midfield and help Leeds take greater control. As impressive as they have been in the opening stages of the 2020/21 season, Kalvin Phillips is in need of greater support to block the spaces and ensure runners aren’t allowed to dart through. Particularly against Fulham, this was made perfectly evident as Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa continued to pick up pockets of space to work in, without Phillips being able to get close by himself.
While the addition of a player like De Paul would undoubtedly help United going forward in attack, Cuisance would provide greater balance – while also still possessing the quality to unlock defences when on the ball.
While comparisons have been made with Ozil, Cuisance’s outstanding range of passing has also seen him compared to the likes of now Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara and former Manchester United man Michael Carrick. That’s quite some company.
Cuisance could slot in effortlessly into the midfield alongside Phillips and Mateusz Klich. As well as being able to dictate games through his range of passing, the 21-year-old also possesses the stamina and athleticism to carry the ball from deep up field before then picking out a teammate. The different elements of his game are what make him such an exciting talent.
But crucially, he wouldn’t necessarily be a direct Hernandez replacement. Instead, he will bring versatility as he is capable of operating in a number of different positions – which could see him become a very important figure under Bielsa. Cuisance would be more than capable of operating at the base of the midfield alongside Phillips, as well as in a ‘number eight’ position with Klich, or even ahead of him.
Part of a Bayern team who relentlessly press when out of possession, Cuisance has developed this aspect of his game – even if he has struggled for minutes. Through his excellent reading of the game, he is also more than capable of nipping in and winning the ball back for his side.
It’s this versatility which will allow Bielsa to tinker with his formations and setups without too much risk or confusion.
Well, it all sounds just fantastic, doesn’t it?
Despite his talent on the field, there have been some doubts as to whether he would be the right fit for Leeds due to his off-the-pitch issues during his career to date. The manner of his exit from Borussia Mönchengladbach has been well-documented, while issues with his attitude are also said to have persisted at Bayern as well.
This has led to a number of fans suggesting such a character isn’t what Leeds need, or that he will ruin the harmony within the squad. But the reality is that United can offer Cuisance the one thing he is after: regular game time. Bielsa has made it clear he is keen for the midfielder to join, and he will ensure that he buys into the philosophy and style.
His character shouldn’t be a cause for concern, even despite his record. This is a player who, at a very reasonable €20m, ticks all the boxes as far as the Peacocks and Bielsa are concerned. Perhaps the best part is that at just 21, Cuisance is still learning and will only improve with regular game time.