By George Overhill

2nd Nov, 2022 | 10:10am

Junior Firpo needs Leeds United exit relief despite rare positive review in past 24 hours

Junior Firpo received a rare positive assessment after his appearance for the Leeds United under-21s in the Papa John’s Trophy, but it isn’t cause for optimism.

The Whites were eliminated from the competition after losing a penalty shoot-out against Crewe Alexandra following a goalless draw on Tuesday night (1 November).

It was a disappointing night on the whole for the club, but for Firpo in particular it was a far cry from how things were expected to go in England.

Under-21s boss Michael Skubala singled out the defender as one of the plus-points from the night, saying per Leeds Live: “Positives, [Mateusz] Klichy got through 90 minutes and I thought he was all over the pitch, he did really well.

“Firpo got through 90 minutes again and did well. Leo [Hjelde] has come back from a long-term injury. I thought he played well and dominated as a centre-half. Some positives to take but work to do in the final third.”

That it is one of the few occasions that the unfortunate left-back has received a decent review this year, or for that matter since he arrived in West Yorkshire, shows how badly his move has worked out.

He also was one of the players who missed in the shootout so even the modest success of a good game against a fourth-tier side was tempered.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way when the 26-year-old was signed from Barcelona for €15million two summers ago, and certainly not when the board made the baffling decision to essentially hand him the reins to the left-back spot this summer off the back of a difficult first season.

Through a bout of Covid-19, poor form, and the general ensuing disaster last term that saw Marcelo Bielsa sacked and the club almost get relegated, Firpo struggled.

Despite that, no help was brought in at the position and the former Betis man duly got injured for weeks to open this season.

He has now returned to fitness but struggled so badly in his only start this year against Leicester that it looks like stand-in Pascal Struijk now has the position to lose.

Getting faint praise for doing well in a frustrating draw with Crewe for the under-21s is a measure of how far Firpo’s star has fallen since leaving the Camp Nou.

Stung by their failure in the summer it would be a shock to see Leeds United not invest in a new left-back in January, or at least next summer.

And while a failure to settle is sometimes unavoidable, while Covid and the club turmoil since his arrival haven’t helped, it all points to the fact that he already looks like he needs to move on again to get his career back on track.

He should be entering his prime and losing years on the bench or in the stands at Elland Road isn’t going to do anything for him, and he has so far not looked like doing much for the club, so if a taker can be found it would surely be better for both sides to admit their mistake and move on sooner rather than later.

The board need to secure more help at left-back as soon as possible whether he stays or goes, but plenty of fans were saying that in the summer, so they will await action on that front with baited breath.

In other Leeds United news, there were jeers for one Whites man at Anfield despite the dramatic win.