Former Leeds United, Leicester City and AFC Bournemouth star makes second tier move

Former Leeds United star Max Gradel has dropped into the second tier of Turkish football to join Sakaryspor.

The winger made the move to Turkey in 2020, spending three years at Sivasspor before joining Gaziantep in July last year. However, the 36-year-old has left the club after just one season on the books to link up with Sakaryspor.

The club finished third in the TFF First League last season, losing in the play-off final to Bodrum. Gradel will bring a wealth of experience to the club, having played in the English, French and Turkish top tiers. He is also a two-time African Cup of Nations winner with the Ivory Coast.

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Gradel started his professional career at Leicester City, showing promise without managing to become a first-team regular for the Foxes. Loan spells at AFC Bournemouth and Leeds, however, proved fruitful.

Max Gradel left Leeds United in 2011. Image: Mark BickerdikeMax Gradel left Leeds United in 2011. Image: Mark Bickerdike
Max Gradel left Leeds United in 2011. Image: Mark Bickerdike

A permanent switch to Leeds followed and Gradel was instrumental in Leeds’ promotion-winning League One campaign in the 2009/10 season. He then shone in the Championship, making a seamless transition to life in the second tier.

Leeds had developed a reputation for selling key assets and Gradel was among those moved on when his stock was high. The wideman departed for AS Saint-Étienne in 2011, returning to England in 2015 to rejoin Bournemouth.

A stint at Toulouse then followed before Gradel sought pastures new in Turkey. In recent years, Gradel has been linked with a return to Elland Road on a number of occasions.

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Although that ship has most likely sailed, Gradel conceded he would be open to a return in 2020. Speaking to The Athletic, he said: “There’s always a chance. While you’re still playing, there’s always a chance. Leeds are family. Leeds are Leeds. If it was to happen one day, I couldn’t be happier.”

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