Leeds United-linked defender makes honest 'dream' admission as Pascal Struijk familiarity highlighted

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Leeds United and Leicester City are thought to be interested in the 21-year-old.

Reported Leeds United target Anselmo García MacNulty admits it is a dream of his to play for Real Betis - an admission that could keep him away from Elland Road.

Seville-born defender MacNulty is thought to have attracted interest from Leeds and Championship rivals Leicester City during a strong campaign in the Netherlands with PEC Zwolle. The 21-year-old was a free agent last summer but has since become a regular starter for the team sat 12th in the Eredivisie.

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Daniel Farke’s side will likely be in the market for a left-sided centre-back this summer, with club captain Liam Cooper due to leave as a free agent when his contract expires next month. But any move for MacNulty could be hindered by his desire to return home in the future.

“My dream was to be a footballer and play at the highest level,” MacNulty told Spanish outlet DS Media. “I don’t care that for that to happen I have to spend several years away from home. Of course it is a dream to play for Betis, but now I focus on what I do with Zwolle.”

Potential suitors will gain some hope from the admission that it could be some time before MacNulty plays for Betis and those in charge at Elland Road may see Leeds as a natural step up. The Republic of Ireland youth international has enjoyed a varied upbringing and is seemingly in no rush to head back to Spain.

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Leeds have enjoyed success in recruiting defensively from the Netherlands, with Pascal Struijk joining from Ajax as an 18-year-old back in 2018. The Dutchman arrived for a nominal fee and now looks a bargain as one of the Championship's best centre-backs.

A major selling point of Struijk was his versatility with the Ajax academy graduate proving more than capable at full-back as well as in his more natural role. And that is a quality mirrored by MacNulty who will hope to continue developing in both areas.

“Centre-back is where I have always played and where I feel most comfortable,” the defender added. “But when they have needed me as a left-back, I have played there. And I have improved in that position. I’m enjoying Zwolle, the people are nice here. And I can even understand Dutch a little, because it’s similar to German.”

Any serious transfer interest is unlikely to surface from West Yorkshire until Leeds know which league they will be recruiting for, with their third-placed finish setting up the prospect of play-off football. Daniel Farke’s men face Norwich City in the semi-final before a prospective final against one of Southampton or West Bromwich Albion.

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But defensive reinforcements will be a priority regardless, with Cooper, Sam Byram and Luke Ayling - who spent the second-half of last season on loan at Middlesbrough - due to leave. On-loan pair Joe Rodon and Connor Roberts will also return to their respective parent clubs, leaving Leeds light at the back. Struijk’s return from a long-term groin injury will be welcomed over the summer.