Leeds United target Chelsea teenager Lewis Bate - a 'metronome' with key attribute for Marcelo Bielsa's demands
Leeds United have been chasing Chelsea teenager Lewis Bate for a long time but face fierce competition to land the midfielder.
The Whites have long admired the England youth international, whose contract at Stamford Bridge runs out next year. Although he has delayed penning an extension and given rise to fan excitement in West Yorkshire by recently following a glut of Leeds United players on social media, there are other suitors closely monitoring his situation. Liverpool are among those tracking the 18-year-old.
In the 2019/20 campaign he was an unused substitute in the Champions League against Bayern Munich and made the bench again at Sheffield United. Last season he was named on the bench for Chelsea s FA Cup fifth round win at Barnsley and made a pair of EFL Trophy appearances against Oxford United and Bristol Rovers.
He played in 20 of the Blues' 2020/21 Premier League 2 fixtures, making 18 starts predominantly as a deep-lying central midfielder. In the FA Youth Cup he wore the captain's armband twice en route to the round of 16.
Described by his club as a 'slight but combative midfield player with an eye for a defence-splitting forward pass' Bate has represented his country at Under 17 and Under 18 level.
According to co-founder of football analytics consultancy MRKT Insights Ram Srinivas, Bate could be a potential future understudy to Kalvin Phillips.
"Bate is a well-rounded deep-lying midfielder; he's well capable of helping a team control possession, acting as a metronome to keep things ticking over as well as being very productive in build-up," he told the YEP.
"He's very positive in his passing and shows good awareness of the spaces opening up around him and team shape, which helps his team play out of a press and also attack the opposition in transition. There's a specific cross-field diagonal that he plays to great effect at Chelsea where the ball is switched over to Tino Livramento at right wing-back, who eats up the ground ahead of him and carries the ball into the box."
Off the ball he has shown at Chelsea why Leeds are such fans of his work.
"You'd think most players that like controlling possession and are comfortable with the ball might be lacking when the opposition has the ball but I think Bate's tenacity to press and engage in defensive 1v1 situations gives him a very high ceiling compared to players of a similar mould," said Srinivas.
"There won't be problems with work-rate as he scales up to the senior game and he can help win the ball back deeper, and also pressure the opposition higher up in a compact midfield block.
"All in all he's just a multi-faceted midfielder whose biggest weakness is probably just his size but he more than makes up for it with his other qualities. He's very well-suited to Bielsa-ball and probably capable of serving as an understudy to Kalvin Phillips."
Leeds are keen to bolster the ranks of Mark Jackson's Under 23 side this summer as they plot their entry into the Premier League 2 top flight. They have already added winger Amari Miller from Birmingham City and midfielder Sean McGurk from Wigan Athletic and plan more signings, with the possibility of first-team involvement part of the package being sold to youngsters.
Last season as well as training every day with the senior side, a number of Jackson's players were part of Bielsa's matchday squad, with Pascal Struijk proving just how content the head coach is to rely on young talent. Others were given minutes in the FA Cup and EFL Cup, while Niall Huggins made an appearance at the Emirates against Arsenal in the top flight.
Players who flirted with the senior set-up last season have attracted plenty of interest from clubs looking to take them on loan this summer. Cody Drameh and Sam Greenwood are both wanted by clubs although Leeds are likely to keep both in-house. Crysencio Summerville, wanted last season by Cambuur who have since earned promotion to the Eredivisie, is another attracting interest with clubs in Belgium and Holland poised in case Leeds decide to let him go out on loan.