Leeds United have become renowned for some strange signings in the past few years from European clubs. Unknown, not-yet household names that have been brought in as Victor Orta and others try to unearth potential gems. Villarreal wide man Alfonso Pedraza was one of those, joining Leeds on loan in January 2017 during the second half of Garry Monk’s push for promotion from the Championship at Elland Road.
The 25-year-old played 14 times for Leeds during the second-half of the campaign, which saw the Whites miss out on the play-offs and finish in a heartbreaking seventh place. He scored just one goal, during a 3-1 away win against Birmingham City – but failed to really impress Leeds fans during his six-month spell at Elland Road. But since returning to Spain, he has come on leaps and bounds with the Yellow Submarine.
This season, the 14-time Spain Under-21 international has starred for Villarreal – but from a different position to the one he played at Leeds. Becoming a left-back, Pedraza has clocked up 40 appearances in all competitions – and is set to take part in a Europa League semi-final second leg against Arsenal, having helped Villarreal earn a first-leg 2-1 win.
Speaking to The Athletic ahead of Thursday night’s second leg against Villarreal, Pedraza spoke of his time at Elland Road. He speaks of how big the loan was on his career, playing alongside Pablo Hernandez who had joined Leeds at the beginning of that season largely because of the presence of Garry Monk. He also claims that Leeds and English football suits him.
“I felt I adapted on a personal level pretty well,” Pedraza said. “I felt very loved by the fans and I was genuinely very happy to play for Leeds and experience the Championship. It is a beautiful league to me, where you play every three days and the football is ‘ida y vuelta’ (up and down), which suits my characteristics as a player well. The move helped me to grow up. Leeds as a city is very fun and very beautiful. Pablo Hernandez was there to take care of me, too.”