Thursday, February 2, 2023

Leeds: Ounahi could be De Ketelaere 2.0

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Leeds United could have another Charles De Ketelaere situation on their hands as interest intensifies surrounding mooted transfer target Azzedine Ounahi this month…

What’s the word?

According to Italian outlet Calciomercato.it, the Angers SCO midfielder is keen to secure a move to Serie A leaders SSC Napoli before deadline day, despite the Yorkshire side offering a better deal.

The Ligue 1 outfit are thought to want around €25m (£22m) to let the Moroccan leave and whilst it’s thought that the 22-year-old is yet to reach an agreement with Gli Azzurri, it is believed to be his first-choice destination.

Elsewhere, other reports from the Daily Mail suggest that the Whites’ interest in Ounahi has been parked for the time being due to the uncertainty surrounding under-fire manager Jesse Marsch – either way, it seems as if director of football Victor Orta and co are fighting a losing battle.

Should Leeds sign Ounahi before deadline day?

De Ketelaere all over again

This situation is an all-too-familiar one to those at Elland Road, having missed out on a similar deal for Charles De Ketelaere during the summer window.

Fabrizio Romano claimed that Leeds were prepared to smash their club-record fee to sign him (around £35m) from Club Brugge but the Belgian attacking midfielder was eager to move to Italian champions AC Milan instead, despite chairman Andrea Radrizzani sanctioning a better deal.

He eventually got his wish before the start of the season, leaving the Whites to look back and think about what could have been.

They are at risk of a repeat scenario here unless they can convince Ounahi to make the switch to west Yorkshire before January 31st.

And that’s what Orta must do, to give Marsch the best chance of success – or if their managerial future does lie elsewhere, he could set up the new man with an absolute gem in the engine room.

Ounahi was a relatively unknown prospect before the World Cup but he became an overnight sensation with his impressive performances for the fourth-placed African nation. “He can really play,” claimed then-Spain boss Luis Enrique as Morocco beat La Roja, as well as Belgium and Portugal on their way to the semi-finals.

Former Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho was another keen admirer as he dubbed him “absolutely incredible” during the group stages, whilst talent scout Jacek Kulig hailed him as the “revelation” of the tournament at one stage.

The “fast and dynamic” midfielder – also in the words of Kulig – averaged 3.02 progressive passes, 0.95 key passes and an 81.5% passing accuracy per 90 throughout the World Cup, highlighting his expertise in finding the right man with positive, forward-thinking play.

He also registered an average of 1.27 tackles won, 1.11 interceptions and 1.59 successful dribbles per 90, via FBref, to further display his immense qualities as a box-to-box animal.

It is exactly why Orta and Radrizzani cannot let Ounahi slip away as they did for De Ketelaere, something must be done to convince the Angers “protege” – as once described by his former coach Corentin Bouchard – to become Leeds’ third signing this January transfer window.

The Whites cannot miss out on another one of Europe’s most exciting young talents, otherwise they’ll be left to rue the matter for the coming months, to the point where the problem will only arise again once the transfer window reopens in the summer – hopefully, Leeds remain a Premier League outfit by then, too.

AND in other news, Orta could form “unplayable” Leeds duo by signing £35m machine, imagine him and Adams…

Numisteamone

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