La Nazione lead the claims of Leeds’ interest in the Fiorentina duo, with loan-to-buy deals being discussed without a concrete offer on the table as yet. Pulgar is a player that some Leeds fans will already be aware of, with the Chilean being linked to The Whites in the summer.
As per La Nazione and Corriere Fiorentino, Leeds have contacted Fiorentina over potential January deals for Chilean midfielder Erick Pulgar and Christian Kouam, an Ivorian striker.— James Marshment (@marshyleeds) December 29, 2020
Kouam has struggled since joining La Viola, scoring just two goals in 22 appearances
A £13.5 million bid was supposedly made in the summer for Pulgar but all went quiet soon after this news. Now, La Nazione claim that Marcelo Bielsa has recommended Pulgar and Kouame to Victor Orta to chase in January.
Erick Pulgar is a 26-year-old defensive midfielder who has been playing a more advanced role in the Fiorentina midfield, roaming as a number eight rather than sitting with or just ahead of the centre-backs.
2019/2020 stats accurate as of September 2020
The Chilean international has struggled for substantial minutes this season, making ten appearances but only playing five matches worth of minutes, and therefore is yet to register a goal or assist this season in Serie A.
However, Pulgar has had an impressive couple of seasons for Fiorentina and Bologna before the 20/21 campaign, scoring seven and assisting six last season following his six goals and two assists in 2018/19 which earned his £9 million move to Fiorentina.
Christian Kouame turned 22-years-old earlier this month (06/12/20) and has struggled for Fiorentina since signing for them in January 2020 in an initial loan deal which has since been made permanent.
In his first season at the Italian giants he played three full games’ worth of minutes in Serie A from seven appearances, scoring once and assisting twice in that time. Meanwhile, Kouame scored five and assisted three for Genoa in the first half of the season, beating his goal tally of the entire previous season inside 11 matches in 19/20.
This season has been a different story for the youngster however. He’s started five times from his 13 appearances, playing around five matches worth of minutes and scoring just one goal in Serie A. It’s been a tough start for the Ivory Coast international, with the striker being tipped for great things in his career.
Marcelo Bielsa has made clear in the media that if there is a player who will significantly improve this Leeds team, then they should pursue them. However, Bielsa also tends to use this window to plug holes in the team, nothing more, nothing less.
That then makes us look at these two players and ask whether they would significantly improve the side. Let’s start with Pulgar...
He’s a versatile defensive player and has demonstrated impressive passing ability and vision. His style of play on the ball is reminiscent of Pablo Hernandez in a more defensive-minded form, which is something that we would all drool over.
But with that being said, he has struggled for form this season following two stellar seasons in Serie A. This could make him more available as Fiorentina hold interest in Dennis Praet at Leicester City, but his poor statistics in terms of final product is something to be questioned ahead of a potential move.
Kouame is an exciting young striker who can play across the front three. He’s a strong finisher and has rapid pace. His stats show that his link-up play and tactical awareness is in a good place at the moment, grabbing 10 assists along with his 11 Serie A goals.
En avril 2018, je vous disais que j'aimais beaucoup Christian Kouamé (97), attaquant de Cittadella en Série B. Depuis il a signé pour 5M€ au @GenoaFrance, a joué 35 matchs (31 titulaire) en championnat pour 4 buts et 6 passes décisives. Il est évalué à 14M€ par @Transfermarkt. pic.twitter.com/zu4zHM82su— Le chercheur de talents (@LeChercheurDT2) May 10, 2019
But he is also in poor form this season, scoring one goal in the league against Inter Milan in the second game of the season. Again, this could result in a better deal for The Whites should they really chase this double deal.
It’s difficult to say one way or the other if Leeds are really chasing these players and if this is the right move. Their versatility could serve Leeds very well considering Pulgar’s ability at centre-back as well as in the midfield, another position which The Whites tried to add to in the summer. Marcelo Bielsa has already made clear that he does not intent to add any more centre-backs to the squad, but could be tempted to kill two birds with one stone in adding Pulgar to the team.
Christian Kouame is a striker with a lot of potential but needs to find his goal-scoring instinct again, and find consistency in scoring goals. This season has been his first chance in his career as a fairly consistent starter in Serie A, and he’s had a tough time so far. We also know that Bielsa can get the best out of players who are willing to work hard, and Kouame’s ceiling is pretty high judging from what we’ve seen.
He can play across the front three and that could be another reason for Leeds to target him, with Helder Costa struggling to provide competition to the team since Raphinha entered the starting 11 recently. The Whites have some exciting prospects up front already, with Sam Greenwood and Joe Gelhardt proving to be incredibly exciting players for the future, and Kouame’s versatility could come in handy in order to bring some youngsters through.
This double deal is certainly one to keep an eye on as the January transfer window closes in.