New Leeds United boss Thomas Christiansen is confident that Chris Wood will improve under his management, saying: “I believe I can make him better.”
Christiansen, a former Bundesliga top scorer, made plain his desire to keep Wood at Elland Road after the striker became only the sixth Leeds player in 98 years to hit 30 goals in a single domestic season.
Wood’s prolific form during the 2016-17 term generated immediate speculation about his future as the summer transfer window opened, with West Ham United, Swansea City and Stoke City all credited with a firm interest in him.
The New Zealand captain, who is currently on international duty at the Confederations Cup in Russia, has two years left on his contract at Leeds and the club’s new director of football, Victor Orta, admitted at a press conference called to unveil Christiansen on Monday that he could not be “100 per cent” sure of retaining Wood ahead of the new season.
But Christiansen, whose playing career began at Barcelona and saw him top the Bundesliga’s goalscoring charts with Vfl Bochum in 2003, said: “Who wouldn’t want a player who scores 30 goals? I rate him very highly.
“I’m happy that he came out the other day in the press saying he would look forward to working with me. That’s a very good sign. He’s a young player still with many years of football left. He will, for sure, have the same target as I have.
“I believe I can make him better and he should be better. He should not stay at this level. It’s a good level of course if you score this many goals but you should always want to raise your targets, to be ambitious in all that you do.”
Speaking at the Confederations Cup, where New Zealand play their second group game against Mexico tonight, Wood reacted positively to news of the appointment of little-known Christiansen as Leeds’ replacement for Garry Monk.
The striker will make a belated return to Thorp Arch with New Zealand involved in the Confederations Cup until at least the end of their final group fixture on Saturday. Most of United’s players are due to undergo medical tests on Friday before starting pre-season fitness work next week.
“It’s a great appointment of the new manager, an exciting new manager who did well last season,” Wood said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he can offer in pre-season and we go from there.”
Christiansen also said he would not look to either of his former clubs, Cypriot sides APOEL and AEK Larnaca, for signings this summer and reiterated Orta’s remark that Leeds would target players “who really want to be here”.
He said: “I’ve had the same situation at APOEL. We were a team that wanted to do something important in Europe and for this you need to sign well. How you attract players to APOEL? Good players for little money?
“We have to bring in players who really want to be here. It’s the same as me as coach.
“I died to be here, it was my first choice and my target, I was very clear that this was what I wanted. That also made the difference between other coaches who were in talks. ‘I’ll go to Leeds because I don’t have other (choices)’. If you start like that...”