Brenden Aaronson: the energetic Lionel Messi lookalike who Leeds United want this transfer window

Leeds United have reportedly tabled a £15m bid for RB Salzburg midfielder Brenden Aaronson - but who is he?

By Flora Snelson
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 11:17 am

With less than two weeks of the January transfer window remaining, it is believed that the 21-year-old is still a target for Leeds after the Austrian side rejected their initial offer.

The Whites haven't signed a central midfielder since Adam Forshaw arrived at Elland Road back in January 2018.

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As Forshaw's stint on the side-lines grew longer, United's need to strengthen in the middle of the park deepened and last summer, Leeds came close to securing the services of Bayern Munich midfielder Michael Cuisance before the deal collapsed at the eleventh hour.

The return of Forshaw has played a hugely significant role in the Whites' season so far - especially since Kalvin Phillips' hamstring injury has reduced the Leeds talisman to a spectator - but reinforcing his position remains a key priority for Leeds' Director of Football Victor Orta.

Aaronson has emerged as a player who ticks all the boxes for United - but who is he?

Growing up in Medford, New Jersey, Aaronson cut his teeth at Philadelphia Union and bagged his first professional goal on his Major Soccer League debut at the age of 18.

RB Salzburg midfielder Brenden Aaronson. Pic: Mario Hommes.

In his first season for Union, Aaronson took advantage of senior absences and established himself as a dependable starter, impressing both as a number 10 and a number 8.

But it wasn't until the following term that he started to turn heads beyond the States, as Aaronson's performances earned him a place in the MSL best eleven at the close of the season.

It was enough to convince Salzburg that he was a player worth forking out for, and the Austrian side reportedly paid $6m to land the raw talent.

The so-called 'Medford Messi', having scored five goals across 15 international appearances and playing a central role in Salzburg's Champions League bid, is experienced beyond his years.

Brenden Aaronson in training for RB Salzburg in January 2021. Pic: Barbara Gindl.

The crucial factor for Leeds, though, is that since arriving at the Red Bull Arena in January 2021, the American has excelled amid the high-energy system which has lifted Salzburg to the top of the Bundesliga rankings.

Simply put, Aaronson ticks the most crucial box demanded of players facing an induction into a Marcelo Bielsa side - that is, he has a proven record of delivering high-energy performances, and boasts eye-watering running stats of the sort that have become the trademark of the current Leeds United generation.

While Aaronson is a skilled dribbler, it is his off-the-ball contributions which may have caught the eye of Orta and his scouts. The American is quick, and his darting runs help him claim the ball and create space for others, while pressing is another marked strength of his game which will stand him in excellent stead should Leeds succeed in luring the midfielder to England.

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Twenty-one year old Brenden Aaronson has scored five goals for the US Men's National Team. Pic: Tom Pennington.
Brenden Aaronson on the ball for the US Men's National Team. Pic: Brett Carlsen.