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Who is Ibai Gomez and why is he linked to Leeds United?

Alaves winger is reportedly on the radar of Leeds after playing under Marcelo Bielsa at Athletic Bilbao

FC Barcelona v Deportivo Alaves - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Leeds United have repeatedly been linked with a move for Deportivo Alavés winger Ibai Gomez after reported move for the former Athletic Bilbao was knocked back this past summer.

Now, after reports in the English media, it appears that Spanish media outlet AS is reporting that Leeds are in for the winger.

So who exactly is Gomez and why is Marcelo Bielsa reportedly keen on bringing him to Leeds?

Gomez played under Bielsa at Athletic Bilbao when the Argentine was in charge of the Spanish club and lead them to the Europa League final. Gomez left Athletic Club to go to Deportivo Alavés in the summer of 2016, where he has played ever since.

Gomez’s best season seems to have been under Bielsa in 2012-13 as he scored five goals and had 12 assists in all competitions for Athletic. He scored eight goals and assisted on two other goals the following season, but his season was cut short, only appearing in 18 La Liga matches.

After moving to Alavés, another team in the Basque Country in Spain, Gomez has had a bit of a career renaissance. He’s scored seven goals in all competitions the past two seasons, and added six assists last year as well.

This year he’s once again off to a good start, scoring three goals and adding an assist in 10 La Liga matches. Additionally, Deportivo Alavés has been one of the surprise teams of this season’s La Liga. They are currently in 2nd place in the table with 20 points after ten games, only one point behind leaders Barcelona. The Basque club has also won three straight over Real Madrid, Celta Vigo and Villarreal.

So why, besides the link to Bielsa, would he be linked with a move to Leeds? First, his contract reportedly runs out this summer, meaning that Leeds could possibly have seen a deal in the making. Secondly, although he’s a right winger, there is a need of depth on the wings at Leeds. Jack Harrison, who is on loan from Manchester City, hasn’t always impressed on the wing, and while Pablo Hernandez can play on the wing, it’s still not a bad idea to bring in another player to be the starter over Harrison, shifting Hernandez to the left, or possibly as a bench or rotation option. Gomez is still only 28, meaning that while he’s not a youth prospect, he’s still young enough to contribute for a few years.

The question, of course, is why would Gomez want to leave Alavés? The team is near the top of the table in La Liga. They might fall away as the season progresses, as Real Sociedad, Valencia other clubs over the years can attest to, but they will still be in the running for European places. Gomez’s contract is reportedly up this summer, meaning that his agent might be trying to drum up interest in the winger or that Victor Orta, the Leeds Director of Football, might be trying to swing a deal for Gomez. Either way, it’s difficult to see how Gomez would be able to get a better contract by coming to Leeds, unless his contract is loaded with promotion bonuses.

Additionally, this isn’t the first time that Bielsa has been linked with one of his former players from Athletic, but none of those players have ended up at Elland Road. Be careful getting excited about any of Bielsa’s former players making an appearance at Elland Road, as it seems that Leeds are more likely to be in for loan deals from Premier League clubs this year.