Leeds United eye defensive options as Junior Firpo ruled out

Junior Firpo’s eight-week injury absence has sparked transfer talks at Leeds United over their left-back situation.

Whites boss Jesse Marsch says their evaluation of the strength in depth they have in that position has been ongoing all summer, but the injury Firpo sustained around the 20-minute mark against Blackpool last week has led them to focus a little more closely on it.

Marsch also has Leif Davis in the squad and the youngster, who went out on loan to Bournemouth last season, is likely to start against Brisbane Roar in Thursday’s Gold Coast friendly.

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Pascal Struijk and Leo Hjelde can also play there but with Stuart Dallas out for a yet-to-be-determined number of months following surgery, it’s an area provoking thought and conversation for Marsch and director of football Victor Orta.

Junior Firpo of Leeds United is out for eight weeks. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)Junior Firpo of Leeds United is out for eight weeks. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
Junior Firpo of Leeds United is out for eight weeks. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

“He’s most likely out eight weeks,” Marsch said of Firpo.

“We’re hopeful that it’s a little bit faster because Junior healed really, really quickly last time after the MCL injury. We’re looking very closely at Leif Davis and we think he’s done really well. We have also other solutions, like Pascal and potentially Jack [Harrison]. But in the whole process, we were always evaluating what we would need at that position. So obviously this highlights that a little bit more clearly. And we have time, we have time.

“When it comes to recruitment, I believe that Victor Orta and Gabi Ruiz do an incredible job of looking around the world and understanding what the demands are of the style of football that the manager wants to play and then providing really good possibilities as to what those players could be and what fits could be. So yeah, I mean, we’ve had those discussions.”

Leeds, who are currently working on striker options to bolster Marsch’s attack, have already had a busy but efficient summer in the market. Orta and his team have brought in six new faces, five of whom will be in contention for a senior starting place right away.

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Raphinha is close to a move from Leeds United to Barcelona. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)Raphinha is close to a move from Leeds United to Barcelona. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)
Raphinha is close to a move from Leeds United to Barcelona. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

The head coach is delighted with how smoothly this summer’s recruitment has gone.

“It’s been a fun transfer time because we’re so aligned. I think the work that we’ve done as a club, the conversations we’ve had with potential players to come to Leeds United, they’ve all been really well organised, really clear.

“Victor is an incredible recruiter in terms of the presentations he puts together for potential players and prospective people to be in our club. But we know we have still more to do and I think we have the flexibility to get some still important players done.

“We’re hopeful on several [striker] targets and we have our priorities and the conversations have been really good.

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“So we definitely are going to find one more striker and I think that’ll be important. And then I believe that, with also the consideration at left-back, I feel like once we get a striker we feel like we’ll have a really sound, strong group.”

Besides Firpo, Marsch has just two injury issues in the squad at present. Liam Cooper is not expected to take part against Brisbane Roar due to a minor Achilles problem, yet could return for the Aston Villa or Crystal Palace games and has been training on his own with a physio. Leo Hjelde, who limped out of the open training session at the Cbus Super Stadium on Tuesday, also has a slight knock.

“I think [Cooper has] just got a little bit of an Achilles issue, and so we’re just being cautious and taking it day by day,” said Marsch.

“He won’t play tomorrow. Leo Hjelde also has a small calf contusion so he won’t play, but the rest of the roster that’s here will be ready and prepared to play.”

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Leeds, meanwhile, have confirmed that a deal has been agreed with Barcelona for the transfer of winger Raphinha.

The Brazilian international is to undergo a medical in Spain today.

A Leeds statement read: “We can confirm that an agreement in principle has been reached with FC Barcelona for the transfer of Raphinha.

“The player will now undergo a medical in Spain.”

Raphinha, who was not included in United’s 25-man squad for the pre-season tour of Australia, had been training alone back at Thorp Arch as speculation continues to rage over his future, with the drawn-out transfer saga regarding his switch to Catalonia now poised to be concluded shortly.

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Barca have tabled an official €58m bid – which could rise to €67m with future add-ons – with a deal in its final stages. Raphinha will reportedly sign a deal with the La Liga outfit until the summer of 2027.

Raphinha joined Leeds from French side Rennes in 2020 for a fee believed to be in the region of £17 million plus add-ons.

The winger, 25, who has made 67 appearances for United, scoring 17 goals, has also been pursued by Chelsea and Arsenal.

The Blues had previously agreed a deal in the region of £60million with Leeds, but the player has consistently been holding out for a dream move to Barcelona, the club he has set his heart on joining.

Speaking last Thursday, Marsch said: ‘There’s urgency from his end, I think, to come up with a solution.”

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