Leeds United have landed in Myanmar for their controversial two-match tour of the country with Samuel Saiz amongst a small crop of senior players included their squad.
Saiz was part of the 22-man group who landed at Yangon International Airport this afternoon ahead of friendlies in the Far East later this week.
Ronaldo Vieira, Kalvin Phillips and Caleb Ekuban also travelled along with Luke Ayling who made his comeback from ankle surgery in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Queens Park Rangers but Paul Heckingbottom’s squad is heavily loaded with academy players.
United’s boss decided in advance to leave behind Pontus Jansson ahead of the Swede’s trip to the World Cup next month and Gjanni Alioski is set for international duty with Macedonia. Injury ruled out Stuart Dallas, Vurnon Anita, Adam Forshaw, Tyler Roberts and Conor Shaughnessy.
Pablo Hernandez returned to Spain for the birth of his second child last week while Liam Cooper is set to become a new father shortly. Other prominent omissions include Eunan O’Kane, Felix Wiedwald, Kemar Roofe, Laurens De Bock, Gaetano Berardi and Hadi Sacko.
Neither of United’s loanees, Matthew Pennington and Pierre-Michel Lasogga, have travelled to Myanmar. Leeds are interested in a permanent deal for Everton’s Pennington but Lasogga will head back to Hamburg amid no plans at United to retain the striker.
United play their first friendly against a Myanmar National League All-Stars team in Yangon tomorrow before facing Myanmar’s national team in Mandalay on Friday.
Their decision to appear in Myanmar has been criticised by several MPs and Amnesty International, all of whom expressed concerns about political unrest and violence in the country.
The ruling government has been accused of human rights abuses and of carrying out ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims near the border with neighbouring Bangladesh.
United owner Andrea Radrizzani attempted to counter the complaints by publishing an open letter justifying the commercially-driven tour - sponsored by AYA Bank - and Leeds went ahead with the visit as planned despite repeated calls for Radrizzani to abandon it.
Heckingbottom revealed on Sunday that he would take a large number of young players with him. Ryan Edmondson, the 16-year-old striker who made his debut against QPR, is one of those involved.
“We know the squad,” Heckingbottom said. “It’s a mixture of a few boys who featured (against QPR), a lot of 23s and some 18s.
“It’s not a football trip but from a squad point of view you can get something out of it. The 23s who I know pretty well and the 18s who’ve trained with us, there’s an opportunity for me now to sit with them and speak to them.
"Me going to Myanmar, I’m not there for the football. I’m there for the club and for the team and the players, to get to know them more, to push them to understand what it’s like being in a first-team environment and for them to feel a bit more comfortable around us.”
Leeds squad: Lonergan, Peacock-Farrell, Ayling, Denton, O'Connor, Pearce, Saiz, Phillips, Vieira, Grot, Ekuban, Struijk, Clarke, Diaz, Shackleton, Machuca, Hosannah, Rey, Dalby, Edmondson, Gomes, Nicell.