Everybody loves a freebie, and you would imagine that Leeds United will be no exception this summer.

With a number of permanent fees already expected to be paid out on the likes of Helder Costa and Jean-Kevin Augustin, you would assume that the Whites will look to do their business in other areas on the cheap if and where possible.

One potential target who could fall into that category is Middlesbrough defender Daniel Ayala.

The Spaniard is out of contract at the Riverside this summer, and could be on the move for nothing, with Leeds touted as one possible destination by the Daily Star.

And on paper, it doesn’t look like the worst idea.

So far this season, the 29-year-old has averaged 1.51 interceptions more per game that Liam Cooper, as well as 2.93 more clearances, as per Wyscout.

The Boro man also has a higher sliding tackle success rate per 90 minutes.

And his influence has been clear to see this season, even in the 4-0 defeat we inflicted on Middlesbrough back in November.

Even though his side took a hiding in that game, Ayala made 15 interceptions, as pictured above.

The main thing that jumps out about his performance is just how omnipresent he was.

The distribution of his interventions illustrates a player who was everywhere, mopping up and digging his teammates out of holes wherever possible.

Similarly, Ayala’s one and only sliding tackle in that match was a perfect example of the kind of defender he is.

As pictured above, he initially stands his man up in a dangerous area, refusing to dive in and instead assessing the situation on his terms.

When the overlap does eventually come, Ayala recognises the danger, following the extra man and committing to the slide.

It’s beautifully timed, clean as a whistle, and never looks as if there is the remotest chance of it being a penalty.

As an added cherry on top, Ayala is able to keep the ball in, and march away with possession.

He might not jump straight into the staring XI, granted, but bearing in mind that he would be available on a free transfer, Leeds could do an awful lot worse than snapping up the Spaniard this summer.

He’s defensively sound, very committed, and would be a decent covering option in the top flight.

In other Leeds United news, ‘Fitter and stronger’ – Leeds big name issues injury update after pre-lockdown absence.


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