Leeds United are ramping up their pursuit to find a new centre-back before they kick off their first Premier League season in 16 years in a fortnight’s time.
The Yorkshire giants have reached a dead-end in their pursuit of Brighton centre-back Ben White and are now reportedly turning their attention to Freiburg’s Robin Koch and Lazio’s Luiz Felipe as replacements for the former Elland Road loan star.
The Athletic journalist Phil Hay has reported that Leeds are close to agreeing a £13million deal with Freiburg for 24-year-old Germany international Koch while La Lazio Siamo Noi claims that a £26.8million bid for Felipe, 23, has been rejected by Lazio.
Here, MOT Leeds News has broken down the stats of each player from last season to see which centre-back could be the best to fill White’s boots in Marcelo Bielsa’s defence next season.
One of the main things that always comes under consideration when comparing two transfer targets is their price-tag and clearly, Koch is available for less than half the price of Felipe.
While Koch is a year older than Felipe, the Freiburg centre-back is also a full Germany international while Felipe is yet to earn a call-up by Brazil.
Both players play in top European leagues, meaning they could both be more ready for life in the Premier League than Brighton’s White.
However, one of White’s roles for Leeds last season was to be a stand-in defensive midfielder whenever Kalvin Phillips was injured or suspended.
Felipe has spent pretty much his entire career as a centre-back but has been known to play in the full-back positions. But Koch is more than good enough to play as a defensive midfielder as well as a centre-back with the Bundesliga website saying he’s “a rangy battering ram happy at home at the heart of the defence or in defensive midfield”.
It’s beginning to look as though Koch is an easy winner in this comparison – and the stats begin to highlight that even more.
One of the key attributes needed for a replacement for White is how well he can pass the ball.
As you can see from WyScout’s stats below, Felipe [90.5%] completed more passes on average than Koch [88.2%] in the league last season but Koch [60.3%] managed to find the target way more efficiently when playing long-range balls than Felipe did [47.4%].
It’s a rare win for Felipe in this comparison to have trumped Koch in the overall passing accuracy stat but, according to WhoScored, Leeds ranked eighth in the Championship last season [29.8] for the number of long-range passes attempted per match.
Clearly, finding your target from distance is a key part of Bielsa’s system.
Of course, it’s all well and good being able to pass the ball but as a defender, your primary job is to, well, defend.
Koch won a higher percentage of defensive duels and aerial duels than Felipe did last season, showing he’s better at winning possession on the ground and in the air.
We’ve also compared the defensive actions of both Koch and Felipe.
Felipe averaged fewer fouls per 90 minutes of Serie A action last season compared to what Koch averaged in the Bundesliga while the Brazilian also averaged more clearances (perhaps due to his lesser ability to find a long-range pass) and interceptions.
After everything that’s been said, it’s surprising that Felipe averaged more interceptions last season.
White made more interceptions than any other Championship player last season [WhoScored] but it is clearly an area which Felipe stood out in compared to Koch.
Despite this, Koch did average way more recoveries per 90 minutes of league football last season than Felipe did.
While Felipe clearly stands out in certain areas, it is pretty obvious which defender is going to be the better signing for Leeds United this summer.
Koch is a Germany international who’s in the final year of his contract at Freiburg and therefore up for grabs for what sounds like £13million.
Felipe simply doesn’t meet the valuation that Lazio have set of him and it would be an incredible waste of money to switch attention from the German to pursue a deal for the Brazilian this summer.
In other Leeds United news, there’s a growing fear at Celtic that this Leeds-linked player will be on the move.