Leeds United: Midfielder Vieira looking to build on a remarkable first year
This time last year Ronaldo Vieira was a little-known teenager with a name to die for. He comes back for a second season at Leeds United with a remarkable amount behind him: Championship appearances, England youth caps, an international medal and a four-year contract.
Leeds expected big things of Vieira but it says much about the speed of his development at Elland Road that the new deal he signed in May was his third in 12 months as a professional player.
His name began making headlines some time ago but his reputation is spreading and an England Under-20 call-up rounded off a fine year.
He and England came home from last month’s Toulon Tournament with winners’ medals after Vieira settled a penalty shoot-out in the final against Ivory Coast.
The 18-year-old broke into professional football the hard way, a relatively late starter at Thorp Arch after moving to England from Portugal, but his career is moving faster than most.
He expected to train sporadically with Leeds’ senior squad last season and play in development-squad matches but his first-team appearances under Garry Monk totalled 38 and he has not turned out for Leeds’ Under-23s since turning professional.
“I got involved way more than I thought I would,” Vieira said.
“I thought I was maybe going to train (with the first team) a few times and then play 23s football but that didn’t happen at all.
“I was happy with myself and I think the club have been happy with the way I’ve been playing, which is why the new contract came about.
“It’s something that every player wants – a long-term contract with a club.
“I still had another two years left so I didn’t really expect it and it came really quick but I was excited for it and I didn’t have to think twice. I just took it.”
Vieira turns 19 next week and was 17 on the afternoon of his senior debut at Preston North End but his body held up to a full year in the Championship.
“It took me a few games to get into it,” he said, “but when I did I went with no fear and tried to enjoy myself, helping the team out.
“I think I’ve done well so far and we’ll see how this season goes.
“It’s a big, big step up (from the Under-23s). The football’s different and everything’s quicker. You’ve got to think quicker and you’ve got to be good on the ball. It took me a while to do that.”
Vieira spoke last year about leaning towards representing Portugal if the choice between his former home and England came up.
In the end, after speaking with his family, the midfielder – originally born in the African state of Guinea-Bissau – decided to accept an England call-up having lived in Yorkshire for long enough to qualify.
“It was a privilege to put the shirt on and a privilege to play for England because I’ve been living here for quite a long time now,” Vieira said. “To win the tournament and put the winning penalty away as well, that topped it off.
“I could have gone and played for Portugal but I spoke with my family, with a few family members who are from Portugal, and I came to a conclusion.
“The decision was mine so I picked England. It was based on family stuff.”
International duty and a new deal picked Vieira up after a demoralising end to United’s last Championship season.
Leeds collapsed from a position of considerable strength, finishing seventh and allowing a play-off place to slip away at the death. Monk resigned before the end of May, unexpectedly creating a vacancy which Leeds filled with new head coach Thomas Christiansen.
“Everyone was gutted but we’d done well throughout the whole season,” Vieira said.
“It was just the end, that little bit which didn’t work out for us but we’re going to try and put it right this year and make sure we get there.
“The aim’s always the same – to get Leeds back to where they belong.
“We’re going to try and do that and do that little bit better than we did last year – get in the play-offs and try and win them.”