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Leeds United transfer news: Leeds and Aston Villa ‘register interest’ in defender, International talent ‘keen’ on Elland Road switch

Liam Cooper says Pascal Struijk has ‘everything’ he needs to become a world class centre-half.

Saturday, 5th February 2022, 8:26 am

The Leeds United youngster has quickly grown into an important player for Marcelo Bielsa, since an inauspicious introduction to fans at Elland Road.

Struijk followed a December 2019 stoppage-time cameo against Hull City with a six-minute spell to forget at home to Cardiff City four days later.

Bielsa put Struijk on to try and shore up the defence aerially, with a 3-0 lead already cut to a one-goal deficit, but after a shaky four minutes both the substitute and Ben White failed to spot or prevent Robert Glatzel from ghosting in between them to equalise.

Struijk remained part of Bielsa’s first team squad but did not feature again until the final three games of the season.

Since then, his recovery has been nothing short of sensational, with last season’s 27 Premier League appearances and the 14 he’s gained this season despite injury problems proving beyond doubt that the 22-year-old is not just one for the future, but the present.

Bielsa says Struijk has now converted himself into a ‘Premier League player’ and his versatility makes him ‘very necessary’ for Leeds.

Cooper has had a front-row seat for Struijk’s development, since the free transfer arrived from Ajax in January 2018.

“That game against Cardiff, although at the time it won’t have felt like it, it was probably the best thing to ever happen to him,” the Whites skipper told the YEP.

“Pascal has absolutely everything to be one of the best centre-backs out there, he really has. He’s unbelievable on the ball, he’s strong, good in the air. I always knew. We all know now. His improvement speaks for itself. He’s got his head down, improved physically, his concentration levels are there and he puts everything into training. He’s reaping the rewards now and he deserves that.”

Cooper believes that with Bielsa’s support, Struijk can achieve big things.

“Obviously he’s got an incredible coach backing him but he’s doing everything on the pitch, training hard, getting his head in the right place and he’ll go on to be a top, top centre-half,” said Cooper, for whom Struijk has deputised on a number of occasions.

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