By Craig Scott

10th Feb, 2021 | 7:10am

BBC pundit: Leeds 21y/o on verge of playing for No 1 team in the world

BBC Radio Leeds pundit Noel Whelan has paid tribute to Leeds United defender Pascal Struijk amid talks that he’s in the frame for the Belgium national squad.

HLN journalist Kristof Terreur has recently reported that the 21-year-old has applied for a Belgian passport and “should have it in time for the next international break”.

It is understood that Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has had his eye on Struijk for a while as the defender was born in Belgium but represented the Netherlands at youth level after rising through the academies of ADO Den Haag and Ajax.

Ex-Leeds striker Whelan believes that the Whites and Struijk himself deserve immense credit for him to be earmarked as a player for the team currently ranked number one in the whole world [FIFA].

“Someone’s seen something in the kid and it’s a manager who’s been around a long time in Roberto Martinez. He knows what he’s doing and he’s obviously seen a real talent there,” Whelan said on BBC Radio Leeds on Monday night [BBC Sounds, 21m57s].

“That only goes down as credit to the club, to get him to this stage, and down to the player, for pushing himself and putting in the performances.

“But hey, let’s not take anything away from him. He’s on the verge of playing for probably the number one team in the world in Belgium.

“We should be happy we’ve got another international centre-half.”

Leeds ace to become a Red Devil?

Struijk’s rise from Under-23s mainstay to potential Belgium centre-half has been quite remarkable – especially as it’s only really happened in the last six months or so.

The former Ajax defender, who can play as a defensive midfielder, only played five times in the Championship last season and that was mostly to cover Kalvin Phillips while he was injured.

This term, Struijk has played 13 times in the Premier League and with Diego Llorente and Robin Koch injured, has emerged as a solid option for Marcelo Bielsa in the heart of his defence.

As Leeds won 2-0 against Crystal Palace at Elland Road on Monday night, Struijk won five of the seven defensive duels he contended and made three interceptions, eight recoveries and one clearance.

The potential future Belgium international also completed 83 of the 87 passes he attempted while 83 per cent of his passes into the final-third were accurate.

Struijk can defend well and pass the ball brilliantly for a centre-half.

He thoroughly deserves to be in contention for Belgium.

In other Leeds United news, Whelan was wowed by this player in the win against Palace as a BBC journalist made a £10million claim.