Pontus Jansson vowed to take Leeds United back to the Premier League – and wants to renew a rivalry with international team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the process.
Jansson has developed into a cult figure at Elland Road since joining on loan from Serie A outfit Torino in the summer and has been a mainstay in defence for Garry Monk’s promotion seeking men.
Details of a permanent move from Italy were expected last month after Jansson reached a 22-game clause in the deal.
But the wait finally ended when United finalised terms on Thursday evening, with the Swedish international penning a three-year contract agreement.
And Jansson, who made his debut in the 1-0 defeat against Sunday’s opponents Huddersfield at the start of the season, believes he has signed for a Premier League club in waiting.
“I have been aiming for the Premier League since the first day I came here,” the 25-year-old said.
“We are on the right way. We play good football and we win games even when we play bad football. That’s what a good team does.”
With Leeds eight points clear of seventh-placed Sheffield Wednesday and only five points behind second-placed Newcastle United, thoughts of a first play-off finish in the Championship since 2006 has heightened.
A rise back into the big time would renew a familiar acquaintance for Jansson in the shape of boyhood idol Ibrahimovic, who Jansson watched as a Malmo season-ticket holder as a child.
Jansson has not spoken to the Manchester United striker since forming part of Sweden’s Euro 2016 squad together, and they have only met once on the field – in a pre-season game between Malmo and Inter Milan.
“I really killed him in that game so maybe he is scared of me!” Jansson laughed.
And the prospect of battling each other next season is one the defender is relishing.
Jansson added: “I hope so but maybe he’s going back to Italy, I don’t know. We will see what’s happening. It would be nice to play against him again.”
Boss Garry Monk said there was “never any doubt” the defender would agree a permanent move despite the wait over the January window.
Leeds will sign the defender for a fee of around £3.5million in the summer.
Monk said: “It’s about timing. To have Pontus sign permanently is great for his teammates and great for the club.
“But Pontus knows there’s a lot of work to be done. His job is to focus even more.”
Jansson has featured 23 times for Leeds since arriving on loan from Torino in August, scoring three goals including the winner over Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday night.
Monk hailed the defender’s influence in reconnecting the club with fans.
The boss said: “You come across players that need that emotional attachment with the fans. It’s elevated the group and it’s elevated the relationship we have had with the fans.
“Right now the team and the fans are together. We are very strong. We believe in each other and we are taking that belief onto the pitch.”