It was pure elation for Gjanni Alioski and his North Macedonia teammates on Thursday night as the Leeds United left-footer helped his country beat Georgia away from home to qualify for Euro 2021 – the first time North Macedonia have qualified for a major tournament. But as things stand, Alioski might have played his last Leeds game by the time Euro 2021 comes around.
Alioski, 28, lasted the entire 90 minutes as veteran Goran Pandev scored the only goal of the game to beat Georgia and book their place in next summer’s tournament. It was a brilliant performance by Alioski and his teammates, who heavily relied upon the midfield presence of Napoli star Elif Elmas.
At club level, Alioski remains a crucial part of the Leeds side – but with everyone fit, the former FC Lugano man does not start. He only came into the side when injuries arose and with everyone available, the versatile lefty is likely to warm the bench under Marcelo Bielsa. Not only is his game time in doubt, but so is his long-term future.
His current contract expires next June. It means by the time Alioski takes to the field when Euro 2021 arrives, he may have pulled on a Leeds jersey for the last time – with the season expected to finish in May. So, it begs the question – do Leeds need to extend his contract and keep him at the club, or do they decide to let him go, if they see no future for him?
Nigel Martyn recently spoke in an interview with The Boot Room and raised a third scenario – other than whether Leeds choose to keep him, or not. Indeed, Martyn spoke of how Alioski might choose himself not to stay – as he may become disillusioned at Elland Road due to a lack of game time, with Stuart Dallas the club’s first-choice left-back – and Jack Harrison on the left wing.
“It depends on how much game time he gets and then, what he wants to do. If he is not in the starting 11, is he then going to get frustrated? It is a two-way street. Less opportunity might mean he wants to move, no player should be blamed for that,” Martyn told The Boot Room.
No longer first choice, Alioski may feel like he has to move on. But staying at Leeds is also an attractive opportunity – given Bielsa, the Premier League and the players Leeds could bring to the club over the next few seasons. For Leeds, it is a question about whether Alioski both deserves to stay, and then, if they keep him, does he add to the squad.
Owner Andrea Radrizzani is capable of sentiment – handing Gaetano Berardi a one-year deal despite his season-long injury. Though Alioski still has the ability to offer plenty to the team, given his versatility and even the odd goal, perhaps his three years at Leeds could aid his chances of a new deal.
At LeedsUnited.News, we think Alioski should be given a new deal. Bielsa likes a small squad of versatile players and Alioski is central to that. The Macedonian is also a huge character and one that the changing room benefits from. His famous clips in front of the LUTV character and screams from the Thorp Arch swimming pool have Leeds fans in stitches on social media.
But failing to take action on a new deal in the coming weeks or months, Leeds find themselves in danger of waving goodbye to Alioski – and watching him play at Euro 2021 having ended his Leeds spell.