Leeds reportedly in hunt for Croatian defensive mid – but does he stack up to Phillips?
Leeds have joined Championship rivals Birmingham in the hunt for Croatia U21 captain Ivan Sunjic.
The Mail claims that Dinamo Zagreb have already had a £3.5million bid from Birmingham for the 22-year-old.
In a summer that looks set to be dominated by loan moves, you might think this would be welcomed by Leeds fans but there’s a caveat.
It’s said that Leeds are looking for a potential replacement if Kalvin Phillips leaves for Aston Villa. The newly-promoted Premier League side have reportedly already offered £20m for the club’s standout player.
Leeds want £30m while manager Marcelo Bielsa wants to keep him. Every player has his price though.
Both players play in the defensive midfield position but while Phillips is a year older Sunjic has arguably more experience. He’s played 87 top-flight games in Croatia, and in Champions League qualifying and Europa League games against the likes of Benfica and Fenerbahce.
He’s won 18 caps for the Croatia Under-21s and played once for the senior international side in a friendly against Mexico.
He can play in any of the central/attacking midfield positions, which offers versatility, but there are two problems as we see it.
Firstly, Phillips is proven in the Championship and Bielsa is a fan. The manager sees him as vital to the way the team plays and he should only improve with another season under the Argentine.
Sunjic is an unknown quantity in England.
Secondly, Sunjic’s stats are decent but not as good as Phillips [wyscout.com].
The Leeds star comes out on top for passing – 43.78 per 90/82% accuracy compared to 38.73 per 90/85% accuracy – and even more for long passes: 6.44 per 90/48.6% compared to 38.73/85% for the young Croat.
Phillips also won 34.6% of 23.54 duels compared to 35.6% of 19.85 duels for Sunjic.
Where Sunjic really comes out on top is cost. Dinamo Zagreb have had an offer of £3.5m for him from Birmingham, with Leeds rejecting £20m for Phillips from Villa. If Bielsa thinks he can mould Sunjic into the next Phillips and Villa are prepared to go higher, Leeds fans might have to brace themselves.