Leeds United’s Ronaldo Vieira gunning to bring up his century

Ronaldo Vieira in action for England during this season's Under-21 Toulon tournament.
Ronaldo Vieira in action for England during this season's Under-21 Toulon tournament.
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LEEDS UNITED’S supporters only have 10 more days to belt out their much adored song about Ronaldo Vieira.

Come Thursday, July 19, the midfielder is no longer a teenager – “one, two, three, four.”

Nevertheless, the young man already has 71 appearances chalked up for the Whites within barely two years of turning pro.

The century is already in sight for the midfielder but Vieira insists team gains come first with the 19-year-old hailing a togetherness at the Whites who are ready and waiting to correct last year’s wrongs.

Vieira is approaching the last full week of his teens yet, of the current squad, already only eight players have featured more times for the Whites.

Liam Cooper has gained the most appearances for Leeds of the present squad with 122, followed in order by Stuart Dallas (117), Gaetano Berardi (116), Kalvin Phillips (95), Kemar Roofe (88), Pablo Hernandez (82), Pontus Jansson (79) and Luke Ayling (74).

Ronaldo Vieira.

Ronaldo Vieira.

Phillips is the next youngest of that group at 22 with all featuring regularly under first Thomas Christiansen and then Paul Heckingbottom last year though Vieira’s second full season at Leeds featured periods in and out of the side and ongoing battles with tendonitis in his knee.

After once again helping England’s under-21s win the Toulon Tournament in France this summer, Vieira was handed a small break following international duty before returning to the Whites squad for pre-season training at Thorp Arch under new head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Leeds have made big waves by recruiting the former Argentina boss who has become the highest paid manager in the club’s history with the importance of the forthcoming campaign obvious at LS11.

Vieira too is unquestionably approaching a big season on a personal level in which the youngster will look to hold down a more regular place in Bielsa’s midfield in what will be his third full season at the Whites.

I can really feel it, the togetherness within the team and I think all the boys know where we are heading.

Ronaldo Vieira

If Vieira has his way, that will naturally lead to the midfielder becoming a Leeds centurion at just 20 years of age but the midfielder insists the team ethic at United comes first with the Academy graduate believing the Whites squad are well placed to erase the memory of a hugely disappointing last campaign.

“You are always trying to get more games in and I am obviously trying to gain more experience myself,” Vieira told the YEP.

“If it comes to a hundred games by the end of the season I’d be happy with it and I think all the boys would be happy with it.

“If it doesn’t come to it then I’ll just be supporting the team whether I’m on the pitch or I’m not on the pitch and I think that’s the togetherness we have.

Marcelo Bielsa.

Marcelo Bielsa.

“I can really feel it, the togetherness within the team and I think all the boys know where we are heading and obviously we knew that what we did last year wasn’t good enough and this year everyone is trying to improve themselves, together and as individuals as well.

“We have just got to wait and work hard and see how it goes.”

The fact that United’s squad have been putting in the hard yards in pre-season training at Thorp Arch under Bielsa has well been documented and Vieira is clearly a big believer of the phrase ‘no pain, no gain’.

“It’s not been easy but obviously it’s something that we have to do as footballers and I think we are all aware of it,” said Vieira.

“We all knew it was going to be tough.

“Obviously everyone had their own programme to do off season and so if you want to help yourself then you should have done that and most of the boys, if not all of them, have done it.

“We know how important the season is going to be for all of us and everyone is trying to improve under the new manager and the new coaching staff. We just see how it goes.”

Bielsa has now been in charge of United for three and a half weeks and Vieira says it’s a case of so far so good under ‘El Loco’ with the midfielder revealing there has been no issues over any potential language barrier despite Bielsa speaking very little English.

“Fortunately for me I can understand Spanish,” quipped Guinea-Bissau born Vieira.

“But it’s not really been a barrier or anything like that and it’s been good. We all know what kind of football we want to play and what he wants us to achieve. What he says, I think the boys can understand it because obviously there is someone else with him trying to explain as well.

“I think all the boys are getting the idea and it’s not really been a problem.”

Vieira was speaking at the opening of United’s latest club store at Leeds Trinity with the crowds flocking to the city centre shopping precinct for photographs and signatures with Vieira plus team-mates Pablo Hernandez, Samu Saiz and new Chelsea loanee recruit Nathan Baker.

“There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on right row,” said United’s 19-year-old midfielder.

“The new shop opening in Trinity, that makes it easier for all the fans and stuff and there’s a lot of exciting stuff.

“Obviously there is the new manager coming in, a manager who has got a lot of reputation and all the boys are just trying to work and improve under him and as a team I really think we can achieve what we didn’t achieve in the last couple of years and obviously throughout the last few years as well.

“Every other manager that I have had has helped me improve a lot and I am just hoping and I am certain that the new gaffer will do the same – not just for me but for everyone else.”

There will, though, have to be a change in chant to accommodate Vieira who makes no attempt to disguise the delight he feels when hailed by United’s fans.

‘Ronaldo Vieira, he’s only a teenager, he never gives the ball away’ so goes the song and Vieira is looking forward to hearing an updated version.

Asked what United’s fans could sing instead after his 20th birthday, Vieira smiled: “That’s not up to me!

“But I do enjoy it and it’s obviously something new for me because I have only just been in the first team for a couple of years and it’s something new to me.

“There’s a few times that I have smiled whenever I have heard it during the game. I’d love to hear something else going on instead...”