Helder Costa has clear credentials to shine for Leeds United and sizzle in Sardinia as biggest Whites outing looms

MARQUEE SIGNING: Helder Costa.
MARQUEE SIGNING: Helder Costa.
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LEEDS UNITED proved emphatically in Australia once again just how much of a draw the club is; even in pre-season.

Sardinia was always going to be the same.

Even 48 hours before their friendly against Cagliari Calcio, plenty of Whites fans were already settling into the island's charming capital.

As ever with the Whites, plenty to discuss - still can't believe the collapse last season, will there be any more signings, are we covered at centre-back; will this finally be our year?

And will Helder Costa ultimately be the man to make the difference as the Portugal international sizes up his first chance to shine for United's first team against Cagliari and sizzle in sultry Sardinia.

Unlike this summer's pre-season visit to Australia, United's jaunt to Sardinia will be a quick one with the squad flying out after training on Friday ahead of Saturday evening's 8.30pm local time kick-off against Serie A outfit Cagliari Calcio at Sardegna Arena.

Plenty of Whites fans were already there - flying in from London Stansted with the club's wide-reaching, fervent and committed support that took hoards of fans to Australia again in evidence.

Those who take their seats at Sardegna Arena will see United take in their fifth and final friendly of a pre-season which has taken in a 5-0 win at York City, a 2-1 triumph at Guiseley, a 4-0 hiding against Manchester United in Australia and a last-gasp 2-1 triumph against Western Sydney Wanderers in the Whites' final clash Down Under.

There has, though, been more to the club's pre-season friendlies and results than meets the eye with a host of first teamers missing the trip to Australia at the request of Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa to concentrate on fitness work at Thorp Arch.

Those left behind essentially covered some of the club's internationals and summer signings - Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Mateusz Klich, Gjanni Alioski and Jamie Shackleton falling into the former category with Brighton loanee centre-back Ben White and new Tottenham Hotspur recruit but now Whites loanee Jack Clarke also missing out on Australia.

And Costa. United's marquee summer signing who will now have the chance to show just what he can offer against Cagliari as he links up with United's first team for the first time.

Costa - who has arrived at Leeds on a season long loan from Wolves ahead of a permanent switch next summer - stepped out in a Whites shirt for the first time for the friendly at Guiseley on July 11 with United's squad effectively split for duty between the clash against the Lions and the fixture at York the previous night.

After a quiet first half, Costa helped turn the game on its head after the break, scoring a fine individual first goal for the club before brilliantly setting up Mateusz Bogusz for the winner as part of a display that featured regular changes of position from upfront to out wide.

On the same day that Leeds took on Manchester United in Australia, Costa again lined up alongside a youthful Whites XI in the 5-1 win against Tadcaster Albion, playing an hour before being substituted in a game in which 18-year-old striker Ryan Edmondson took centre stage with a hat-trick.

Five days later, the forward secured more minutes in the bag in a behind closed doors friendly for a Whites XI against Saudi side Al-Ittihad at Thorp Arch, a match which ended in a 4-2 defeat.

It all means that Costa will in effect bag his fourth outing for Leeds against Cagliari yet also his first in a full strength Whites side but for those injured or still undergoing more fitness work at Thorp Arch.

Under forecast clear skies and temperatures of 30 degrees - even for a 7.30pm BST kick-off - Costa is likely to find himself the hottest attraction in town from a Whites perspective against Cagliari as the 25-year-old sizes up his chance to really shine in pre-season ahead of next weekend's Championship opener against Bristol City.

Leeds landed a coup by taking Costa from a top-seven Premier League side in Wolves but the Championship is the division the Portuguese forward knows well - and one that the former Benfica player is proven in excelling in.

A product of Benfica's youth Academy, Costa had loan spells at Deportivo and Monaco for whom he netted five times in 28 outings amidst competition from Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar before the forward joined then Championship outfit Wolves on a season-long loan in July 2016.

The Portuguese star went on to make 40 appearances that season and scoring 12 goals.

Another 39 appearances and five goals came Costa's way the following season as Wolves stormed to the Championship league title.

The pacy forward then made 25 appearances in the Premier League last season which also featured an international debut for Portugal against Scotland - an outing capped with the opening goal in a 3-1 win.

The overall package to bring Costa to the club is thought to be costing in the region of £15m with the forward set a sign a four-year deal at Leeds next summer which is already agreed.

A long term investment who might just immediately hit lift off on his first outing for a near on full strength Leeds and sizzle in Sardinia on Saturday night.