Former Leeds United star Nigel Martyn has claimed that Marcelo Bielsa has discovered a readymade replacement for Liam Cooper in the heart of defence. 

And he believes that Pascal Struijk could save Leeds money going into the market for another centre-back.

Leeds bought centre-backs Robin Koch (£13m) and Diego Llorente (£18m) this summer.

With injuries to Cooper and Llorente this season, Struijk has broken through into the first team and has been trusted with playing at centre-back against Liverpool and against Aston Villa in the holding midfield role.

Struijk was taken off after 20 minutes against Villa and it’s in defence that Martyn thinks the future lies for the 21-year-old.

Talking to Leeds United News Martyn said, “I think he can save Leeds some money, going forward.

“There’s competition and I wonder if Bielsa thinks of playing three there, with Struijk. There’s a lot more to come and as the skipper gets on in age, he is a readymade replacement.

“Centre-halves were in a strong position. He must be highly thought of to give him a three-and-a-half-year deal. It is down to him to force himself into the team. He probably wants to play centre-back more than midfield.”

Struijk the future

Struijk signed a new deal with Leeds last week that will see him at Elland Road until 2024.

The youngster has done a brilliant job this season under very difficult circumstances that have seen him play out of position and make just his third start against Liverpool.

Leeds conceded four goals that day but the blame can’t be put at the door of Struijk.

He’s shown a lot of promise and there’s a lot that Leeds fans like about the centre-back. He’s good with both feet, good with the ball at his feet, and composed enough to be played in the holding midfield role.

He had a horror show against Aston Villa after taking out Jack Grealish and looking like he might get sent off, but getting hooked by Bielsa after 20 minutes is very different to getting hooked by another manager after 20 minutes.

Struijk has been rewarded with a new contract and if he goes on to fulfil his potential he will easily slot into the Leeds defence and, like Martyn claims, save Leeds millions.

Premier League centre-backs don’t come cheap these days.

In other Leeds United news, ‘No doubt’ – MP makes claim about what tier Leeds will be in as fans hope to return to Elland Rd

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