The international window may be closed, but the scouting doesn’t stop.
The 2020 AFC Champions League returned from COVID-19 postponement this past few weeks. The East region clubs in the round of 16 concluded with Iranian club Persepolis as the finalist of the tournament. The West region clubs have yet to play their remaining group stage and knockout round games to define the next finalist for Asia’s most prestigious trophy. Here are some key players of the 2020 AFC Champions League that Leeds United should have a look at.
Some on this list probably couldn’t cut it, but the depth of talent for the Premier League is not as high as in the Copa Libertadores. There also could be Work Permit
10. Adam Le Fondre (Centre-Forward, Sydney FC, 33-years-old) –
He isn’t a Premier League quality player anymore but the list needs to get to 10. Le Fondre is Sydney FC’s leading scorer the past couple seasons. The Stockport native is no stranger to the Premier League, having played for clubs such as Reading FC, Wolves, Wigan Athletic, and Bolton Wanderers. Having Le Fondre as a reserve for Rodrigo and Bamford would give some depth, but we all know Marcelo Bielsa doesn’t work that way - and in this case nor should he.
9. Ali Al-Bulaihi (Centre-Back, Al-Hilal, 30-years-old) –
Al-Bulaihi is an ideal centre-back who can also score when he seeks the opportunity. The Saudi international can move around the pitch better than most defenders.
8. Ahmed Khalil (Centre-Forward, Shabab Al-Ahli, 29-years-old)
The 2015 Asian Footballer of the year has been UAE’s best player in all of their Asian Cup tournaments appearances and has been Shabab Al-Ahli’s leading scorer. Khalil also fits in the winger role and having him in Leeds would be beneficial due to his explosive speed when he is in attack.
7. Ryuta Koike (Right-Back, Yokohama F. Marinos, 25-years-old)
What makes Koike stands out is that he can move all over the right side of the pitch. He primarily serves as a right-back but he also serves as a right winger. Players who can easily move all over the pitch are usefulfor many important Premier League matches, and are something Bielsa particularly likes.
6. Akram Afif (Left Winger, Al-Sadd, 23-years-old)
Afif will be one of the shining stars for the incoming FIFA World Cup 2022. The Qatari international delivered 10 assists during Qatar’s championship run in the 2019 Asian Cup. His expertise in assisting would sit well in Leeds’ midfield core.
5. Zhunyi Gao (Centre-Back, Guangzhou Evergande, 25-years-old)
Another centre-back who can move well all over the pitch, Gao also fits in the defensive midfield position. Gao perfectly fits to play alongside or as a reserve for Diego Llorente. His great size and speed is perfect for his position as a centre-back.
4. Junling Yan (Goalkeeper, Shanghai SIPG, 29-years-old)
Yan has served as the first choice goalkeeper for Shanghai SIPG since 2011, making over 260 appearances, he also has 29 caps for China. He is adept at coming for crosses to prevent headers in the penalty area due to his large frame. He is due to be a free transfer on December 31. Adding him to the roster in the winter transfer window would be a great pickup - his biggest bonus is not being named Kiko Casilla.
3. Pity Martinez (Left Winger, Al-Nassr, 27-years-old)
After a disappointing showing for Atlanta United which ultimately led to his release, Martinez has one last chance to redeem himself in a big money market environment, Saudi Arabia. I doubt he will disappoint but once he reclaims his elite status, Leeds must be on the front door for a deal. Martinez played under Bielsa disciple, Marcelo Gallardo, when he was at River Plate.
2. Sergi Samper (Defensive Midfield, Vissel Kobe, 25-years-old)
Samper’s experience playing alongside the game’s best such as Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta is something Leeds should not dismiss. Still young enough at 25, the former Spain u21 international’s contract expires the end of January, Samper would also be a good steal for Leeds.
1. André Carrillo (Right Winger, Al-Hilal, 29-years-old)
Carrillo was the key player for Al-Hilal winning the 2019 AFC Champions League. His creative playmaking and speed makes him stand out in the Saudi Professional League. No stranger to the Premier League, having played for Watford in 2017-18, Carillo could become one of the Premier League’s top offensive wingers.
Let us know in the comments below, or @ThruItAllLUFC on twitter. which players you liked on this list that Leeds United should get for the next transfer window. There will be more tournament player scouting reports soon, stay tuned.