Josko Gvardiol has told The Times that he could see himself playing for Leeds United when Marcelo Bielsa came calling in 2020, but admitted that, at the time, he did not feel ready to make the move to the Premier League.
Gvardiol is certainly threatening to be the modern day one that got away for the Whites. The centre-back is well on his way to becoming one of the best in the world. He was outstanding at the World Cup with Croatia.
According to Fabrizio Romano, RB Leipzig want at least £78 million for the 21-year-old. Meanwhile, Leeds look to be in serious danger of falling out of the Premier League in the coming months.
Gvardiol shares why he rejected Leeds move
So how things could have been so different had Gvardiol come to a different decision back in 2020.
The Daily Mail even reported at the time that Leeds were set to sign the defender for £17 million. But obviously, that would not be the case. And ultimately, it was RB Leipzig who landed the youngster.
Gvardiol has now provided an insight into how close he was to joining Leeds. And he has shared why he decided against moving to England.
“Bielsa was the coach and I don’t know if you know this but my goal in my career is to play in the Premier League,” he told The Times. “I didn’t speak with Bielsa but of course he sends a few people and they came to Zagreb. I met these guys and they show me it was something like a plan how they see me in their style of football. I mean, when they presented it everything looked good and you could maybe see yourself there in that moment.
“I knew that I needed to take a few steps more before I get [to the Premier League] one day. At the end Leipzig is a really good club and I feel good here.”
How history could have been different
It really could have been a game-changer for Leeds had they signed Gvardiol. It is almost easy to forget now, but Leeds were brilliant in that first season back in the Premier League.
So there would have been scope for Gvardiol to shine at Elland Road. That same summer, Leeds would bring in Robin Koch and Diego Llorente. And neither have exactly proved to be amazing signings for the club.
Clearly, we would not have kept Gvardiol for long. In fact, he may have already moved on if he had arrived in 2020. But given the numbers being talked about, signing him just over two years ago would have obviously been a massive step in the right direction.
That is all the more painful to think about given what has happened since.