Leeds United prospect Ian Poveda proves you can take Marcelo Bielsa surprise and you can get serious value in the January transfer window

The January transfer window isn’t entirely compatible with the way Marcelo Bielsa works and it’s not Victor Orta’s favourite market.

By Graham Smyth
Saturday, 10th October 2020, 5:45 am
HELLO AGAIN - Ian Poveda has developed under Marcelo Bielsa since leaving Manchester City for Leeds United, according to Pep Guardiola. Pic: Getty
HELLO AGAIN - Ian Poveda has developed under Marcelo Bielsa since leaving Manchester City for Leeds United, according to Pep Guardiola. Pic: Getty

The number of players you can actually obtain is far smaller than in the summer window and any player in form and in shape will be difficult to prise out of his club without paying over the odds.

Even if the financials can be done the player needs to be in sufficient physical condition to cope with the intense training regime at Thorp Arch if they are to stand a chance of playing first-team football before summer.

January 2020 brought just three players to Elland Road; striker Jean-Kevin Augustin, goalkeeper Elia Caprile and winger Ian Poveda.

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Augustin, beset by a calf issue and then a struggle to reach the required fitness level, played 49 minutes of Championship football and is now a Nantes player, although the dispute over Leeds’ obligation to pay the guts of £20m to RB Leizig lingers.

Caprile, still only 18, was never likely to get senior match minutes but made the bench for two Championship games when Kiko Casilla was banned for racism and has filled that role again this season with Casilla injured.

Poveda, plucked from Manchester City on a free transfer with a sell-on, came with the traditional young signing fanfare – stints at Chelsea and Barcelona and England youth caps bring the terms ‘pedigree’ and ‘highly rated’ to the table.

This new boy was highly rated though, by Orta who brought him to Elland Road to replace Jack Clarke and complete Bielsa’s set of wide options.

BIG IMPACT - Ian Poveda, pictured here preparing to flatten Ferran Torres, starred for Leeds United against former club Manchester City. Pic: Getty

Quite whether the Whites director of football believed his new winger, who turned 20 in February, was capable of turning Benjamin Mendy inside out in a Premier League game before 2020 was over, is debatable.

Bielsa didn’t play Poveda in the first team until June, after lockdown, and even then he was restricted to two brief cameo appearances against Cardiff and Fulham, where he showed one or two flashes of promise.

He had shown more than that in the Under 23s but the leap in standard to the second tier is enough to keep the expectations of even the giddiest of Leeds fans in check.

Poveda got his first start, with the league title already claimed, and looked bright, if a tad lightweight, against a stuttering Derby.

An assist in 28 minutes against a beleaguered, League One bound Charlton, was a nice flourish to end the season and later that night his wide-eyed wonderment and glee during the promotion party did no harm to his popularity.

Off the field he had settled into the group with greater ease and speed than any other player, said Stuart Dallas.

Although Poveda tucked himself in between Kalvin Phillips and Tyler Roberts and played a full part in the squad’s celebrations, he still went into the short break very much a fringe player, with orders to put weight on.

The Carabao Cup provided his first 20/21 first-team football and he was a livewire against Hull, although at times there was a hint of speedboat with no driver – all pace, little direction.

The same could be said of his cameo at Sheffield United but not when Manchester City came to town.

He was still direct, running at and past Mendy, but there was a care to his work and signs of very intelligent life – he hit the brakes during one dart up the wing, spun on his heel and clipped a lovely ball in behind the defence to create a crossing chance for Matesuz Klich.

He put every bit of that extra weight into a shoulder challenge with Ferran Torres that left the City man in a heap, Mike Dean harshly deeming it a foul. Pep Guardiola’s somewhat curt post-game admission that Poveda has improved under Bielsa did little justice to the youngster’s performance.

Anyone whose eyebrows went up as he rattled his former club can be forgiven – particularly when Bielsa himself admits he has been taken by surprise by the level of progress the winger has made.

“This player came to Leeds thanks to Victor Orta and when I saw him I did not think he was going to have the evolution he is having or the qualities he is showing,” said the head coach.

“He is a highly technical player, he’s a competitive player and he has physical resources which I haven’t seen before. He is a player who in sprints and distances covered has immense values.”

A good 45-minute display is not conclusive proof, but Bielsa’s words should be taken as evidence that Leeds’ happy-go-lucky scamp is a serious prospect and a suggestion that you can still get serious value in January.