Pascal Struijk's new Leeds United contract is reward for repaying Marcelo Bielsa's trust
News of the centre-back or central midfielder's three-and-a-half-year deal follows that of a new contract for 18-year-old defender Charlie Cresswell.
The Dutchman has been rewarded for his rapid improvement since the coronavirus lockdown.
Marcelo Bielsa trusted the 21-year-old to play out of position deputising for the injured Kalvin Phillips during the Championship run-in. He has filled in for Phillips again in the Premier League, as well as for Liam Cooper in his preferred position of centre-back.
Not that it has all been plain sailing. Struijk was substituted midway through the first half of the 4-1 win at Aston Villa because he was on a yellow card and had been fortunate to escape another for a rash challenge. Coach Bielsa took the decision to replace him with Jamie Shackleton, who excelled in his place.
He watched the defeat against Leicester City from the bench, but was restored to the side when Shackleton was injured for the trip to Crystal Palace. It is hoped Phillips may be able to return from a shoulder injury at home to Arsenal on Sunday.
Struijk joined Leeds from Ajax in January 2018 and made his senior debut in the 2-0 Championship win over Hull City in December 2019.
After five league appearances last season, he kicked off the Whites' first Premier League game in 16 years at Anfield in September, filling in for the injured Cooper, the first of four starts so far this season.
It says much for the faith Bielsa has in the versatility of Struijk and others that the club appeared to show little interest in signing a specialist senior holding midfielder to cover for Phillips.
Another theme at Elland Road at present is their faith in youth. As well as strengthening their first team this summer, Leeds recruited a host of teenage players and gave new contracts to the best of their emerging academy players. The deals for Cresswell and Struijk show that has not stopped now the new season has started.
Struijk's deal runs until the summer of 2024.
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