Leeds United star Joe Gelhardt is tipping the club’s final summer signing Wilfried Gnonto for big things at Elland Road after admitting the player has quickly caught the eye during first-team training.
The Whites brought in nine new players over the summer window, spending just shy of £100m. Three of those signings, Luis Sinisterra, Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson, have already made a big impact in the side. Their summer dealings, however, have been underpinned by the sales of Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips.
That said, and despite announcing a significant profit, the money has not simpy gone into Andrea Radrizzani’s pocket. Instead, details have emerged of how a £25m debt has been repaid off by the club’s majority owner and chairman.
Inspite of that, supporters will have been hoping the club could have made a significant deadline day signing. The Whites, having lost top scorer Rodrigo to a dislocated shoulder injury, were in the market for a new striker later in the window.
Efforts to sign Cody Gakpo, ultimately, proved unsuccessful. And their plan to sign Bamba Dieng from Marseille also fell through, with Radrizzani going public on how Leeds were “screwed up”.
Instead, Leeds pushed forward with a plan to sign Gnonto earlier than expected. The Whites have been on the trail for the FC Zurich striker for some months, with the teenager having already won four caps for Italy.
Leeds were expected to sign Gnonto in January – but brought those plans forward in light of their situation.
However, at 18 years of age, it’s probably unfair to expect Gnonto to hit the ground running straight away.
Moving to a new country is always hard, moreso for a player who does not turn 19 until November.
Wilfried Gnonto tipped to have big Leeds impact
Gnonto has signed a deal with Leeds to 2027 and is expected to have a big future in the game.
And while so may think he may need to wait a while to get a chance, Gelhardt admits he already likes what he sees in the teenager.
Gelhardt, himself only 20, recently signed a new deal to extend his stay at Leeds United.
The former Wigan forward has also been handed several first-team opportunities of his own. Now an established member of Jesse Marsch’s first-team squad, Gelhardt reckons it might not be long before Gnonto finds himself involved.
Speaking with BBC Radio Leeds, Gelhardt said: “He’s trained the last two days.”
Asked for his impression of him, Gelhardt added: “Very sharp, very fast. He’s lively. He’ll play anywhere across the front four.
“He’s a lovely lad and I’m sure he’ll do very well for us.”
Leeds have a big star of the future
It’s important not to overhype young stars too much, but in Gelhardt and Gnonto, Leeds United appear to have two massive stars of the future.
Gelhardt has already proven his quality and the club’s decision not to spend big on a new summer striker signing was entirely for his benefit. Indeed, Leeds feared that any new addition may well have held back the progress of Gelhardt after such a promising 2021/22 campaign.
As such, if he continues progressing as he has, then he will have a big future in the game.
Some even feel that honours with England could one day be bestowed upon him.
Caps for his country is something Wilfried Gnonto already had. Incredibly, despite being just 18, he’s been capped four times by Azzurri coach Roberto Mancini.
And if he can adjust to the rigours of the Premier League, Leeds may have landed a bargain.
They have paid an initial £4.015m for Gnonto, though that fee could rise to £10m depending on add-ons. Furthermore, Zurich have also reportedly negotiated a future sell-on percentage for the striker.