Ronaldo Vieira seems to be a forgotten man in the Leeds United midfield, as the young player hasn’t seen as much of the pitch as would have been expected of him, given his performance in his breakout season last year. And while Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips have been a great pair, is it time for Vieira to work his way back into consideration?
The recent release of the England U20 team highlighted something that has been bothering Leeds fans all season: Why hasn’t Ronaldo Vieira been given the opportunity to build upon his wonderful debut season for the club last year? He was voted Young Player of the year, and went on to play for England in the Toulon Tournament in France last summer, helping England retain the title.
During training camp, it appeared that Christiansen was trying to pair up his midfielders, with Phillips and O’Kane being paired up and Vieira was paired with both Liam Bridcutt and Mateusz Klich. And while Bridcutt has moved on to Nottingham Forest, Vieira has now been partnered with Klich almost exclusively.
So when it was revealed on Tuesday evening that O’Kane was going to be out, speculation was that Vieira would finally make more than a short appearance for the Whites in a League match, only for Klich to make the starting lineup against Cardiff City. Klich’s untimely miscue that resulted in Cardiff’s opening goal further highlighted the absence of Vieira. While Klich performed admirably against Burnley in the League Cup match, Vieira has had a couple of very good performances himself in Cup matches and, while considerably younger than Klich, has more Championship experience than the former FC Twente midfielder.
What is holding Vieira back this season? The emergence of O’Kane and Phillips? Phillips has scored a few goals this season already, including two against Bolton Wanderers in the first match of the season, and has made a number of timely tackles and vital stops to bolster his claim to be included in the starting lineup. O’Kane has been a pleasant surprise after being stapled to the bench for much of the season last year, and the lack of cohesiveness in the midfield against Cardiff was not only down to the pressure of Cardiff, but also because O’Kane was out.
What doesn’t make sense, however, is the start of Klich over Vieira. Ronaldo Vieira is the future of Leeds United’s midfield, and possibly the team itself. Vieira is still young, but his vision and passing ability are that of a much older player. He was a revelation last season, and to leave him out over Klich shows that Christiansen doesn’t trust the young midfielder as much as Garry Monk did.
Vieira has a hard road ahead of him trying to break back into the starting XI with the strong play of Phillips and O’Kane, but he should be the first player off the bench and needs the faith of the manager to come in and play when O’Kane or Phillips are hurt, ill, or need a rest. Klich had his opportunity to start in a Championship match, and didn’t perform up to expectations. Vieira came on and did a fine job in the second half, although the match had long been decided when he came onto the pitch.
It’s also important to remember Vieira’s link play with Samuel Saiz in the Port Vale match. Yes, it’s Port Vale and they’re crap, and yes, Saiz was brilliant, but Vieira’s play with Saiz that match was inspired, beautiful football, and if the two of them can recreate that magic during a Championship match, Leeds could be unstoppable this season. So please, TC, give the best-named footballer in England another chance to impress.