Leeds finally added the signing of defender Leo Hjelde from Celtic towards the end of the summer window, after months of speculation.
Comparisons with Liverpool giant Virgil van Dijk, constant rumours and the eventual move have been regular. On Saturday, he made his 23’s debut.
The Whites made numerous additions to the 23’s side, after promotion. Lewis Bate, Amari Miller and Sean McGurk have also joined the club.
We spoke to the managing editor of popular Celtic site 67 Hail Hail, John McGinley, and asked for the lowdown on new Leeds recruit Hjelde.
On what kind of player Hjelde is, McGinley says: “A ball-playing defender. In his early youth career he actually preferred being used as a midfielder or further forward. Clearly now he is a defender, but he relishes opportunity on the ball certainly. He played at left-back for Ross County while on loan.
“Celtic clearly would have preferred to keep him. He was one of the stars of our development side before his move to County. Fans had certainly earmarked him as a player that would be making a push for the senior team in the future, especially after the loan.”
Starting at left-back on Saturday, Hjelde lasted the entire 90 minutes but only after a tweak from manager Mark Jackson.
The 23’s Leeds gaffer moved Hjelde into the middle of the defence, a tactic that proved much more beneficial for the Norwegian defender.
Leeds picked up a point at Thorp Arch, drawing 2-2 with West Ham – making a decent enough start to PL2 with seven points from four games.
Leeds star Hjelde: van Dijk comparison, bargain at £1m?
Fan site Through It All Together claim the Whites paid Celtic £1million for Hjelde – and McGinley reckons it could be a bargain for Leeds.
He also discussed those comparisons with van Dijk: “Consider the long-term upside, but his current experience level, it’s a fair price and a potential bargain. Consider Kristoffer Ajer joining Brentford for an eight-figure fee, than you can see what’s down the road if he stays on a positive path.
“John Hughes is a character and he isn’t shy of hyperbole. However, I’ve always considered him honest and passionate about youth development. I don’t think he’d be making statements like that [VVD] unless he was seriously impressed with what he was seeing every day in training.”
Hjelde joins a Leeds side with plenty of competition at centre-back. Liam Cooper, Pascal Struijk, Robin Koch and Diego Llorente are senior options.
Oli Casey has joined Blackpool, but there are enormously high hopes for Charlie Cresswell – who has already made his first-team debut.
So, what hope does Hjelde have of breaking into the senior side? McGinley reckons a season with the 23’s might come first.
“I could have seen him pushing for Celtic’s first-team towards the back end of this season. Hjelde will probably play for the U23s for at least a year and then they’ll see where he’s at. I think he’s ready for senior football at a lower level than the Premier League, he’s ambitious.”