David Prutton provides detailed analysis of Leeds United target Brenden Aaronson from US viewing

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Everything stood out for David Prutton as he covered the MLS Is Back tournament in the summer of 2020.

The competition staged within the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida marked the return of top-level US football following the coronavirus pandemic and every game was played behind closed doors and without any fans.

There wasn’t even any fake crowd noise, Prutton able to hear every shout during the games he covered.

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Yet, on the pitch, it was a 19-year-old named Brenden Aaronson that made the biggest impression on Prutton who believes the midfielder would be an ideal signing for Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United side.

IMPRESSIVE: A 19-year-old Brenden Aaronson, centre, takes on all comers for Philadelphia Union against Portland Timbers during the MLS Is Back Tournament semi-finals in Florida in August 2020. Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images.IMPRESSIVE: A 19-year-old Brenden Aaronson, centre, takes on all comers for Philadelphia Union against Portland Timbers during the MLS Is Back Tournament semi-finals in Florida in August 2020. Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images.
IMPRESSIVE: A 19-year-old Brenden Aaronson, centre, takes on all comers for Philadelphia Union against Portland Timbers during the MLS Is Back Tournament semi-finals in Florida in August 2020. Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images.

Now 21 and at Austrian outfit Red Bull Salzburg, Aaronson is the player that Leeds hope to sign in the last few days of the January transfer window but the USA international will not come cheap.

Leeds saw an initial bid of £15m rejected by the Austrian Bundesliga leaders who have also refused to accept an improved offer of £20m.

United have been mulling over a possible third offer or whether to wait and try again in the summer.

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But, however the January transfer window ends, Leeds United are extremely keen on the energetic US international and former Whites midfielder-turned-broadcaster Prutton shares the same view.

Prutton is best known for his work on Sky Sports but also covers MLS games in the States, whereby a slightly younger Aaronson first came to his attention at Philadelphia Union.

“He was there in 2019 and 2020 and I can remember him,” Prutton tells the YEP.

“From what I saw and what I remember of him, he was a kid who was very, very capable on the ball.

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“There was an athleticism to him which does stand out in MLS because they do get very fit.

“When you look at the technical players actually from America they have got the fitness side to go with it as well.

“The ones that come through the college system and out of the other side with it are athletes.

“The ones that are becoming increasingly more common are the ones that go straight into it after school and they are bringing that element to their profession as well.

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“Aaronson is another player that you would say is in a nice little sweet spot being 21 years old and having that experience.

“I have not seen him with Salzburg in the last couple of seasons but, with regards to who runs Salzburg and the way that structure of football clubs is put together, it allows for players to move continents and go and prove themselves which is exactly what the idea is behind Brendan moving from America to there is all about.

“He’s another player that won’t be scared of hard work, he’s a player that will be at the right age to be moulded by Bielsa and you could look at someone like Jack Harrison as a comparison in players that he brings on.

“For Aaronson, maybe meeting Marcelo at 21 is a perfect time for his development to get into the Premier League so that will be an intriguing one to keep an eye on.”

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Assessing Aaronson’s likely price tag, Prutton reasoned: “We are talking about an international footballer so let’s not think that we are going to get him for peanuts.

“It’s just about getting him for the right price.

“Leeds have shown they are not scared of spending money and, if it’s 20-to-25 million quid for a player that goes on, ie like a Raphinha, then it’s a wonderful bit of business.

“I am not saying he is in the same ballpark or he has got the same skill set, I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is that speculate to accumulate could obviously serve them well down the line.”

Bought for just £17m from Rennes, star winger Raphinha is the best example of that strategy although goalkeeper Illan Meslier is another case in point, the Frenchman, who is now United’s undisputed first-choice ’keeper, purchased for just £5m from Lorient in July 2020 following an initial season-long loan at Elland Road.

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RB Salzburg managed to snap up Aaronson for a reported $9m at the back end of 2020.

Nearly two years on, Aaronson is now strutting his stuff in the Champions League for Salzburg – and potentially on his way to a World Cup with the USA.

The midfielder’s stock is continually rising but Prutton believes he would be worth United’s investment due to offering traits that would be well suited to head coach Marcelo Bielsa’s demands.

“What I liked about him was that he could get about the pitch quite obviously and confidently,” said Prutton.

“He was only a young player at the time.

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“The MLS is Back tournament which was held at Disneyland in front of no fans was when football was coming back over there and there were bubbles so everybody went down to Florida to play all these games.

"He ended up in the team of the tournament or best XI as it were. He just stood out because of how robust he was.

“The fact that he was quite slight at the time stood out; he took the ball in tricky positions.

“He wasn’t quite a man after my own heart given what I was like as a player but I always enjoy a younger player that looks unfazed and goes around and gets stuck in, for want of a better phrase.

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“He did all of those but he was absolutely no slouch in possession either so that ability to be able to handle a ball whether it be close to a touchline or further infield, and be combative and could get around the pitch as well, was something that really stood out.

“And it stood out even more because you were watching a game in that tournament which was amazing from our point of view because, covering the games, we didn’t even have the fake crowd noise.

“Literally all you heard was players and coaches shouting and you could hear him and you could hear the orders being barked out and he just stood out in a way of you look at a player and how he affects a football match.

“Then you look at the age of a player so, back then, he would have been 18-19 and it stands out, it really does stand out.

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“I am not for one second, hopefully not, building him up to be some kind of world beater.

“But I think, if you are looking at the fundamentals of what a player in that position needs to have, playing for what Marcelo has done with Leeds – energy, fitness, aggression and ability to handle the ball in tight areas, a forward thinking mentality and not shy of going to get the ball off the opposition and being able to create – I think he ticks a lot of boxes.”

Prutton added: “With the way that Leeds set up, you are looking for a player with real energy that can play in the wider parts of the pitch with an emphasis on being able to do what Marcelo does, which is go and press the life out of the opposition and win the ball back, and can also play in the centre.

"If you can get someone like that it's a huge coup.

“Leeds have got the likes of Adam Forshaw and Kalvin Phillips that you feel are specialists down the centre of the pitch.

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“But, if you get a player with slightly different traits and a slightly younger one, one that can operate down the middle and also the wider parts of the pitch, then it will be another very, very ambitious string to their bow.”

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