Leeds United have reportedly sounded out a potential move for Sporting CP midfielder Joao Palhinha ahead of the new season kicking off this weekend.
According to Portuguese news outlet O Jogo, Marcelo Bielsa and Victor Orta have been in touch with Sporting to find out their terms for a potential transfer.
It is understood that Palhinha, 25, is valued at around £13million by Sporting and although manager Ruben Amorim has few players like the ex-Braga loanee in his squad, the Lisbon giants would consider selling him at that price.
Palhinha is a defensive midfielder who spent last season on loan at top-flight rivals Braga.
Many Leeds fans will point to the fact that Bielsa already has a top-class player in that position in his squad in Kalvin Phillips but how often do we see Phillips get injured or suspended?
Phillips missed nine Championship matches last season and with him set to play a role in Gareth Southgate’s England squad and the more hectic fixture schedule, there’s a chance that the Leeds star will miss more games next season.
Palhinha looks as though he would be a top understudy for the soon-to-be England international Phillips.
Based on stats by WyScout across all competitions last season, while Palhinha was on loan at Braga, Palhinha had a higher overall pass accuracy than Phillips.
The former Portugal youth international also boasted a higher accuracy of forward passes and long-range passes, showing that he’s not all just about passing the ball side-to-side or backwards.
Phillips is the deep-lying playmaker of the Leeds United side; he’s the man that makes the Whites tick and he’s arguably the most crucial cog in Bielsa’s Elland Road machine.
Palhinha clearly matches up in terms of his passing, but what about when it comes to the dirty, defensive work that holding midfielders are forced to call upon?
The £13million-rated Sporting CP ace impresses yet again.
Palhinha averaged more interceptions and recoveries per 90 minutes than Phillips but did also average more fouls and fewer clearances.
We’re not saying these stats suggest Palhinha is better than Phillips but you have to admit that the Leeds United target could be a superb fit in Bielsa’s squad to play in a back-up role behind Phillips, or even in a different role in the squad.
Palhinha played as a centre-back at times while on loan at Braga last season and also occupied central midfield roles, as well as in his favoured defensive one.
He’d be a good squad player in what is a small Bielsa-sized squad at Elland Road and could nullify the need to spend big-bucks on 18-year-old Croatian centre-back Josko Gvardiol.
In other Leeds United news, the Whites have been dealt a big midfielder transfer setback.