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Exclusive: Nigel Martyn reckons Leeds already have a ready-made replacement for Liam Cooper

Pascal Struijk signed a new Leeds United contract during the international break and Nigel Martyn has told LeedsUnited.News that he believes the Dutch defender can save the club a heap of cash – and eventually replace a current Leeds mainstay.

Struijk, 21, emerged into the Leeds side towards the end of the 2019-20 campaign, coming on as a substitute against Barnsley and starting both matches against Derby and Charlton – which ended in 3-1 and 4-0 wins to cap off a brilliant campaign.

It saw Struijk emerge as one of the newest Leeds young guns this season, despite having never played in the Premier League beforehand. He has since made four appearances in England’s top flight, and has convinced Leeds to offer him a new deal.

He signed a new contract until the summer of 2024 during the break and Martyn reckons the former Ajax academy star can save Leeds some money in future transfer windows. He also reckons Struijk is the ideal, long-term replacement for captain Liam Cooper.

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“I think he can save Leeds some money, going forward,” Martyn told LeedsUnited.News. “There’s competition and I wonder if Bielsa thinks of playing three there, with Struijk. There’s a lot more to come and as the skipper gets on in age, he is a ready-made replacement.

“Centre-halves were in a strong position. He must be highly thought of to give him a three-and-a-half-year deal. It is down to force himself into the team. He probably wants to play centre-back more than midfield.”

Right now, Struijk is probably fourth-choice centre-back, with Diego Llorente currently sidelined through injury. When all are fit, the Dutch star could have a better chance of getting a place in the side as cover for Kalvin Phillips.

However, left-footed centre-backs are notoriously rare and if he manages to gain some valuable experience this season, then he is well on the way to becoming a crucial part of the Leeds XI in years to come. Certainly, he has the potential.

Cooper is now 29 and the Scotland international is realising the level to which he can play football – making his Premier League debut this season. But he may only have a few years at this level and Struijk could be the ideal replacement, as Martyn says – when Cooper’s quality finally begins to wear off.

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