Leeds United must overcome two of Europe’s biggest clubs if they’re to sign Noah Okafor who recently made headlines for all the right reasons, per a report.
The Whites performed major surgery on their squad this summer upon losing arguably their two finest stars. Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha both departed, though the money was quickly re-invested in the likes of Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson and Luis Sinisterra.
Only time will tell whether the moves will benefit Leeds in the long run. Though according to data analysts Twenty First Group at least, Leeds are now significantly more likely to beat the drop than they were last season.
One glaring omission from their list of summer recruits, however, was up front.
Leeds pushed throughout the window to sign Belgium international, Charles De Ketelaere.
The classy forward can operate in a wide variety of positions in the final third and multiple bids were tabled.
However, De Ketelaere only had eyes for AC Milan and duly joined the Serie A champions for a fee in the region of £28m.
Leeds did add youngsters Sonny Perkins and Wilfried Gnonto to their ranks. However, the 18-year-old pair aren’t expected to make a first-team impression any time soon.
That’s left Patrick Bamford leading the line, though he continues to struggle with injury. Rodrigo and Joe Gelhardt are his deputies, though the common consensus among Leeds fans was a senior striker was needed.
Now, according to Italian outlet Calciomercato, the Whites are on the prowl for a new hitman.
Noah Okafor in the crosshairs
They report Leeds are in the mix to sign 22-year-old Switzerland international, Noah Okafor.
Okafor plays primarily at centre forward and plies his trade at RB Salzburg. He has eight Switzerland caps to his name since making his senior debut in 2019.
The Red Bull organisation has proved fertile ground for Leeds business since Jesse Marsch took charge. His connections having managed both Salzburg and Leipzig have helped secure moves for Rasmus Kristensen, Adams and Aaronson.
Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund are also monitoring Okafor who hit the headlines on Wednesday night for all the right reasons.
Salzburg hosted De Ketelaere’s AC Milan in their Champions League opener. Okafor opened the scoring with a must-see wondergoal that involved two nutmegs and leaving Milan defender Pierre Kalulu flat on his backside. Okafor’s goal can be viewed here.
Details beyond the interest of the three named clubs are in short supply. However, given Okafor is 22, on the rise and is under contract until 2024, it stands to reason he won’t come cheap if Salzburg do sell in a future window.
Positive signs for Leeds?
If Leeds do act on their interest, they do hold several advantages over Inter and Dortmund.
Firstly, it stands to reason they’d be able to offer more guaranteed game-time given the respective level of their squad compared to the Italian and German outfits.
Secondly, the Red Bull connection with Marsch is clear. The American has already capitalised on his past employments in the market. Few would be surprised to see more RB players move to Elland Road in the future.
Finally, Salzburg’s model relies on frequent turnover of their rising stars. What’s more, given his contract expires in 2024, a sale at some stage in 2023 would make sense.
Okafor to Leeds may be one to watch out for in the not too distant future.