Why tying down Pascal Struijk is shrewd thinking by Leeds United
According to a report by Sky Sports, 21-year-old defender Pascal Struijk has signed a new contract with his club Leeds United.
The Dutch defender has put pen to paper on a new three-and-a-half-year contract that could see him stay at the club until the summer of 2024. The versatile defensive player has enjoyed a breakout season under Marcelo Bielsa and started 4 out of Leeds’ 8 league games (h/t Sky Sports)
Born in 1999, Struijk joined Ajax’s famed youth academy in 2016. The youngster was snapped up by Leeds United in January 2018, where he played in the reserve team until his senior team debut with the club in December 2019.
Struijk has enjoyed a positive start to Leeds’ 2020/21 campaign as he has started in 4 out of the Whites‘ 8 Premier League games. The Leeds defender has also represented the Dutch national team at U-17 level.
Struijk signing a new contract is great long-term thinking by Leeds
Struijk is a very versatile player who can play in multiple positions. He started Leeds’ opening Premier League game against Liverpool due to an injury to Liam Cooper. Thus, he is not only a great long-term option but also an adequate short-term solution to Leeds’ injury problems.
The Dutchman can play central midfield, defensive midfield as well as in central defence. Such is the versatility of Struijk that he has played in all these three positions already this season in just 5 matches. If there is a need, he can fill in for the injured Adam Forshaw and Kalvin Phillips in the current Leeds line-up.
Leeds signed Diego Llorente and Robin Koch this season to increase their centre-back options. However, Llorente has not featured in a single game this season. This makes Struijk an important backup for Kock and Cooper in the heart of Leeds’ defence, especially considering the condensed fixture list this season.
Averaging almost 4 clearances and 1.8 tackles a game, Struijk isn’t a slouch at the back either; and his heatmap further shows how he is adept at playing in a variety of areas. In the long term scenario, the decision to keep the Dutchman gains more importance.
Just 21 years of age, he has his best years ahead of him. Being a former Ajax youth product and getting the nod from the legendary Marcelo Bielsa also bodes well for his case as a great prospect for the future.
Leeds cannot afford to lose important squad players such as Struijk. And with January fast approaching and teams across the land (and Europe) scrambling to sign players, especially those as young and versatile as Struijk, the decision to tie down the Dutchman in November would be a very wise move by Bielsa and co.