Today was Leeds’ window of opportunity to get the deal over the line before the 21-year-old joins up with the United States men’s national team for a quartet of international games starting next week.
Aaronson was up and about early, reporting to LivingCare in Leeds at 7am before completing the rest of his medical at Thorp Arch and then arriving at the stadium he hopes to grace with goals and assists in the Premier League next season.
“Sounds kind of cliche, but it’s beautiful and it’s old – it’s amazing,” he told the YEP after signing a five-year deal.
“Listen, I’m from America, so the culture of how far it goes back isn’t that far but you’re coming into a stadium that’s been around for a long time, you know, and it’s a great feeling and I can only picture it with fans in.
“I feel amazing, it’s an amazing feeling playing for an historic, giant club like this is. I think [what attracted me] was all the factors together, the fans, the club in general, the city, the family feeling that you get here, it was just everything.”
Aaronson has had five months to wrap his head around the idea of playing in the Premier League for the Yorkshire giants. Leeds made a concerted effort to buy him in January but Salzburg wouldn’t budge, prioritising the attacker’s involvement in their domestic double pursuit and a Champions League round of 16 meeting with Bayern Munich.
He admits to having been somewhat torn when Leeds bid £20m for his services.
“I found out about interest in January and then had played the half a season with Red Bull Salzburg, and it was a good half season,” he said.
“It was a tough decision, but in the end some of that is not up to me sometimes and it’s up to the club and I was still so happy either way, you know? I love Red Bull Salzburg and what they’ve done for me, so I wasn’t worried about that at all, to still play Champions League. The summer came and the deal got done.”
It’s been a successful introduction to European football for Aaronson, ahead of a step up from the Austrian Bundesliga to the English top flight. He enjoyed back-to-back league and cup doubles, played eight times in the Champions League and scored 13 goals, with 15 assists to boot after leaving Philadelphia Union in MLS.
“I would just say one word – amazing,” he said of his time in Austria.
“I’m really grateful for how that club brought me in and I played right off the start and I had a year and a half of playing amazing, fun football. I really enjoyed it. And it was a great time playing Champions League, Europa League. It was a really big jump in my career.”
Aaronson, a young-looking 21, has already gained a relative wealth of experience thanks to his European and international involvement and believes he arrives at Leeds a better player than the one who left the US in 2021 to sign for Jesse Marsch at Salzburg.
"I think a lot of things [are different] – I think it progressed my game to play new positions, so when Jesse was there I was playing a left centre attacking mid, but then when Matthias Jaissle came in, I was playing more of like a false 9/10. So it was new positions, learning new things about my game and growing.”
Aaronson doesn’t need an in-depth briefing from what Marsch will ask of him at Leeds thanks to his previous experience of his fellow American’s football. What the Premier League will ask of him is another matter. Numerous players have found the adaptation to the physical nature of the division and its fixtures a real struggle. The youngster believes he’s ready, though.
“I kind of already know what Jesse wants me to do,” he told the YEP.
“He carries this thing with him and he’s gonna bring it to every club. I haven’t talked to him about this team in general, but I know what he wants out of his players and where he sees me playing and I just want to do the best I can for him and for the club.
“I know that the standard is really high, I know that the league is really tough and there’s a lot of games, but I feel like I’m a player that’s ready for this jump and I feel confident in myself. I’m ready to help the team as best I can.”
He’s yet to meet his new team-mates and with his international duty and a vacation to follow, the introductions will have to wait until pre-season. He has, however, watched them play. He says he followed most of the games from January onwards, as Leeds fought to stay in the top flight. It’s no secret that the move was dependent on survival, so his Premier League dream was as wrapped up in the club’s final fixtures as that of his new colleagues. It made for a nervy Sunday afternoon in Austria.
“I was in Vienna with my girlfriend for two days and I couldn’t stay in the hotel, I had to get out,” he said.
“We were in a cafe and I was watching the game and I couldn’t pull myself together. It was like I was sweating, I was pacing. I never felt like this about a football game ever before, which makes sense, but I was just sweating so much. I was pacing and it wasn’t fun, but it ended up being good.”
Leeds did the job at Brentford and now Aaronson has a new job.
Despite his tender years, an outlay of £25m puts him in a bracket that comes with certain expectation and responsibility. Leeds believe he is the right type of player for Marsch’s system and one worth the investment.
He’s not promising to repay it next season in goals, but vows to do whatever he can for Leeds.
“Individual goals, for me, it’s the team always coming first,” he told the YEP.
“Helping the team as best I can – if that means getting goals, getting assists or putting in shifts, or maybe not having the best games but you’re working hard off the ball, that’s what I want to do.
“I’m super excited. I have an international break, I want to have a good vacation but all I can think about is getting back here.
“It’s an amazing feeling to get here.”