By George Overhill

23rd Sep, 2022 | 7:40pm

Leeds United defender Junior Firpo tipped for big things by Barcelona legend Carles Puyol

Junior Firpo has a “great future” according to Barcelona legend Carles Puyol as the Leeds United defender nears a return to action following injury.

The former Camp Nou left-back was brought in prior to last season but struggled for consistency in his maiden campaign at Elland Road, with Covid-19 and the general malaise that engulfed the club at the time contributing to a difficult time.

Despite that the Whites decided against signing competition at the position in the summer, even with Stuart Dallas out long-term with injury, effectively handing the starting role to Firpo before he was ruled out for eight weeks himself after picking up a knock in preseason.

He is scheduled to be available again when United return to action following the international break, and Puyol is expecting big things from 25-year-old going forward.

Speaking to media in the Dominican Republic, where the defender was born, Puyol said, as per El Caribe: “Firpo is a good player. At Betis he had a very good season and that helped him get to Barcelona and there was a lot of competition ahead. 

“He had Jordi Alba, he was giving a very good performance, he is a player with a great future, I think he is going to have a good career.”

Belated

After a difficult first season, and then a very unfortunately-timed injury, Firpo could be excused for wondering if the time will ever be right for him at Elland Road, as the fans will also be thinking.

Pascal Struijk has done as well as he can filling in since the start of the year, and has done a better job than many would have expected, but he is not naturally a full-back.

That really makes it Firpo’s job to lose, so if he doesn’t make his way back into the starting XI fairly quickly and then stay there it will be a concern for his long-term prospects with the club.

Clearly Jesse Marsch is sold otherwise Victor Orta would surely have made a strong play to add another option during the transfer window, so it is time to repay that faith.

Puyol should know what it takes to be a good full-back, having spent a good chunk of his 100 Spain caps and almost 600 Barcelona appearances on the right of a back four.

As an ex-Camp Nou man and a former Spanish under-21 international Firpo will be pleased if he can emulate even a fraction of what Puyol achieved in a trophy-laden career, and he has a big opportunity to kickstart his time in England now he is fit again.

In other Leeds United news, there is a surprising man included in the club’s Premier League squad this year.