Ranked: The top six Leeds U23s stars by Google search and who is most likely to succeed under Bielsa

Date published: Wednesday 17th November 2021 2:33 - James Marshment

Leeds United Under-23s Sean McGurk, Lewis Bate, Sam Greenwood, Charlie Cresswell, Joe Gelhardt, Amari Miller

Leeds United are blessed with a wealth of top talent in their Under-23s squad. Here, we take a look at who is the most popular player according to Google trends, together with who is the most likely to enjoy sustained success in the first team.

Since their return to the Premier League in summer 2020, Leeds have invested heavily in their youth set-up. As part of the club’s long-term vision under director of football Victor Orta, Leeds have been snapping up some of the best young talent in the country.

Learning their craft under the expert eye of Under-23s coach Mark Jackson, Leeds ultimately hope to save themselves millions in transfer fees by putting in place a selection of players one day capable of success.

Playing in the same high-energy, high-press fashion, United’s Under-23s earned promotion to Premier League 2 Division One in Jackson’s first season. Now competing with the country’s other best youngsters, United have a plethora of emerging talent all looking well-placed to make the senior team one day.

And with first-team head coach Marcelo Bielsa relying on a small crop which regularly dips into their Under-23s talent pool, there is a clear and obvious pathway for these young stars to succeed.

But which of these emerging talents is most likely to become a regular in the Premier League under Bielsa? Here, using Google search intelligence, together with our own percentage ranking system, we have outlined the five stars most likely to succeed at Leeds.

5) Sean McGurk

Background

The flame-haired 18-year-old arrived from Wigan in summer 2021, with Leeds having agreed an undisclosed fee. An attacking midfielder, McGurk scored 25 goals in 31 starts for Latics Under-18s before rising into their Under-23s set-up.

Indeed, he caught the eye with a superb half-volley at Old Trafford which flew into the net off the underside of the crossbar. The Liverpool fan then earned himself some attention with his celebrations when he signalled the number six to identify their latest Champions League triumph the previous summer.

However, with his contract up at Wigan, Orta stepped in to bring McGurk to Elland Road in a deal reportedly worth just £175,000.

Signing a three-year-deal, McGurk has time on his side and the natural ability to make the step up at Leeds.

Current status

Yet to make the first-team squad, McGurk’s first aim will be to establish himself under Jackson and hone his talents in Premier League 2.

He made a good start to the season though, scoring on his debut in a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace’s youngsters at Selhurst Park. McGurk also netted on Tuesday night as Leeds Under-23s beat Mansfield 2-1 in the Premier League Cup.

Projected growth

Leeds have high hopes for McGurk and he certainly has the ability to succeed. If he continues on the right path, a chance in Leeds’ first team could come before the end of the season or, more realistically, next term.

Google search volume (correct to October 2021)

McGurk’s name has been searched 1,450 times in Google over the past 12 months – putting him fifth on the list.

Competition for places

Leeds do currently appear a little short in the midfield department, so there is a chance that McGurk could one day make it. While different players, his main competition probably comes from Stuart McKinstry and Lewis Bate.

Which current player do they compare to?

Mateusz Klich. Leeds love a goalscoring midfielder and while the Pole is not currently a regular, you could one day see the “20 yards or 30 yards” terrace chant being adapted for his name.

Percentage chance of making it at Leeds

65%

4) Sam Greenwood

England's Sam Greenwood during the U20 International Friendly against Italy at the Technique Stadium, Chesterfield

Background

The Sunderland-born striker first started making waves in Arsenal’s academy, after they paid £500,000 to bring him to London at the age of 16.

The 19-year-old though opted for a move to Leeds in summer 2020, signing for an initial £1.5m. That fee could eventually cost Leeds £3m, but he’s a player very much on the right path.

Current status

Greenwood is a regular in Jackson’s side and has lots of hope of a bright future.

He made his first-team debut in the ill-fated FA Cup exit at League Two Crawley in January 2021, but has had to remain patient ever since.

He did, however, appear as a second-half substitute in the recent 2-0 EFL Cup defeat at Arsenal.

However, it is with England’s youngsters that Greenwood has earned the most recognition. Having skippered their Under-20s side last week, he earned promotion to Lee Carsley’s Under-21s for Wednesday’s game against Georgia, where he scored in a 3-2 defeat.

Projected growth

Much is expected of Greenwood, who arrived with a big reputation as one of the country’s best young striker talents. He’s not disappointed either and appears very much on track to one day make the Leeds team on a regular basis.

A player Bielsa rates highly, the Leeds boss turned down six loan enquiries for Greenwood from EFL clubs this summer.

Google search volume (correct to October 2021)

Greenwood’s growth in Google searches is apparent by his name being searched 5,430 times to the end of October, placing him as the second most searched Under-23s player in Leeds’ set-up.

Competition for places

Forming an impressive G & G partnership with Joe Gelhardt for Leeds Under23s, Greenwood will hope he has the credentials to put competition on Patrick Bamford for his Leeds shirt.

The Whites are being tipped to sign a striker in the January transfer window. However, Leeds could resist knowing an opening is there for Greenwood to become a bench regular and push for a place in the side come the second half of the season.

Alternatively, Leeds could decide to move him on in January and allow him to gain experience with an eye on next season.

Which current player do they compare to?

During his days at Arsenal, Greenwood earned comparisons to former Gunners striker Robin Van Persie.

Percentage chance of making it at Leeds

75%

3) Charlie Cresswell

Leeds United's Charlie Cresswell celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the preseason friendly match at Highbury Stadium, Fleetwood

Background

The son of former Leeds striker Richard Cresswell, Charlie is a 19-year-old commanding centre-half, having been with Leeds since 2013.

Having grown up in York, Cresswell jnr signed for Leeds as a 12-year-old. The 6ft 3in Cresswell is contracted to Leeds until summer 2025 after rising through their youth ranks all the way to the first team. His latest contract extension was signed back in August.

Current status

The captain of Leeds Under-23s, Cresswell also features regularly in Leeds senior squads. Indeed, having debuted in an EFL Cup tie against Hull in September 2020, he made a first start for the seniors in their 2-1 home defeat to West Ham in September.

Facing one of the Premier League’s in-form strikers in Michail Antonio, Cresswell put in an excellent performance for Leeds, despite being unable to prevent the Hammers’ last-gasp winner.

Cresswell has also earned recognition for England, recently being capped for the Under-21s and starting Wednesday’s clash against Georgia.

He also appeared as a late sub in Leeds’ last match, a 1-1 draw at Elland Road against Leicester City.

Projected growth

Cresswell has a growing reputation in the game and looks to have all the assets needed to become a top defender. An excellent reader of the game, Cresswell is commanding in the air and also has decent pace across the ground. Described by The Athletic as something of an ‘old-school centre-half’, Cresswell is also excellent with the ball at his feet and can also build up play from the back.

Well in tune with Bielsa’s methods, Leeds will have high hopes that Cresswell can follow Pascal Struijk’s route to become a first-team regular.

Google search volume (correct to October 2021)

The demand to learn more about Cresswell is obvious given his status as part of the Leeds first-team squad and his elevation into the England Under-21s side. Indeed, over the past 12 months searches on average show to be 3,343, placing him in third place in the top six players at Leeds Under-23s.

Competition for places

For Leeds’ Under-23s, no other central defender looks as likely to make it as Cresswell. In the seniors, however, it is an area in which Leeds are pretty well blessed.

That said, it’s also an area in which injuries have taken their toll for Leeds this season, leading to Cresswell making his Premier League debut.

He has club captain Liam Cooper, Spain international Diego Llorente, Struijk and Robin Koch all ahead of him in the pecking order. However, with Koch currently injured and Llorente no stranger to the treatment room, he is likely to get more chances in the weeks and months ahead.

Which current player do they compare to?

Cooper is the obvious one given his style play and frame.

Percentage chance of making it at Leeds

85%

2) Lewis Bate

Leeds United's Lewis Bate during the preseason friendly match at Highbury Stadium, Fleetwood

Background

Signed from Chelsea over the summer, Bate is a 19-year-old midfielder of whom plenty is expected. Full of running and energy, Bate made the Blues’ first-team bench three times before switching London for Leeds.

There was something of an outpouring of grief when Bate departed, given huge things were expected of him at Chelsea.

Leeds paid an initial £1.2m for Bate and the midfielder opted to make the move to West Yorkshire to further his first-team prospects.

A brave move and one which plenty in the game expect to pay off.

Current status

Bate recently scored an excellent first goal for the club in a Papa John’s Trophy match against Salford City.

This week, he also featured for England Under-20s and was voted Leeds Under-23s Player of the Month for October.

Bate also appeared in the first team for the first time in the recent 1-1 draw against Leicester.

Projected growth

Picked out by Bamford as one of three Under-23 stars he most expects to succeed, it just appears a question of when rather than if Bate will make it into the Leeds first team.

Google search volume (correct to October 2021)

With 5,620 searches, Bate is the most-searched-for player in Leeds’ Under-23s set-up. Perhaps thanks to his Chelsea connections, though also as big things are projected for the youngster.

Competition for places

If there’s one area of the pitch Leeds look short on depth in, it is midfield. While Adam Forshaw has made a welcome return to Premier League action after a two-year absence, Leeds do look light in that department.

Indeed, Bate looks to have all the assets needed to make it in a Bielsa midfield and can expect to make his senior debut soon.

The challenge then will be to become a regular, but Bate has as good a chance as anyone else at Leeds right now.

Which current player do they compare to?

Bate says as a youngster, he looked up to both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

However, Goal’s Chelsea reporter Nizaar Kinsella claims it is Croatian star Mateo Kovacic who Bate most reminds him of.

“He’s probably most naturally a six but he can play as an eight,” Kinsella told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

“He’s got a really good final ball which is one of his big traits. He has a brilliant left foot, likes a crossfield pass and is a good dribbler.

“He is quite similar to Mateo Kovacic at Chelsea who dribbles through central midfield to break the press – which probably means he could be an eight as well.

“I think that would suit him. He does get stuck in and he’s defensively strong. I don’t think the physicality is quite there yet but technically he is great. He takes set-pieces as well.

“He puts himself about and does have that nastiness to his game. I think that is a big part of his game, really.”

His Wikipedia page also lists a likeness to Holland great Clarence Seedorf.

Percentage chance of making it at Leeds

85%

1) Joe Gelhardt

Background

Joseph Paul Gelhardt. We’re not going to be the ones who tell you to “remember the name” because the 19-year-old is already a well-known talent in his own right.

Having been snatched from Wigan in a £1m deal, TEAMtalk were told at the time of his signing that Gelhardt will prove the “transfer bargain of a lifetime”.

Initially operating primarily as a centre-forward with Wigan, Gelhardt, nicknamed Joffy (from the film Coming to America), has shifted to a deeper role with Leeds in the Premier League 2. Frequently deployed as a second striker, the positional alteration allows Gelhardt the greater opportunity to showcase his greatest asset – lightning quick feet.

That most eye-catching trait centres around the vast amount of touches he takes while dribbling with the ball. That’s not from a lack of sure-footedness, however. Quite the opposite.

He possesses the rare ability to dribble at pace without the ball ever leaving his close area of control. His style will entice and bamboozle top-class defenders in equal measure.

The sight of an unfortunate marker lunging into a tackle they had little chance of making will soon become commonplace when Gelhardt is on the ball.

Current status

Having represented England at every level from Under-16s through to Under-20s, Gelhardt has also featured in the Leeds first team on four occasions already this season. His most telling contribution to date was the mazy run which earned Bielsa’s side a last-gasp penalty to secure a 1-1 draw with Wolves.

He’s a player that Bielsa seems to trust, too.

His record with Leeds’ Under-23s isn’t bad either, as 11 goals in 16 appearances appearances last season illustrated.

Projected growth

Without putting too much pressure on Gelhardt, he’s one that plenty in the game expect to go all the way to the top. It’s just a matter of when Bielsa decides to give him more game time at Leeds.

Google search volume (correct to October 2021)

Surprisingly in a sense only third on the list with 3,220 searches. However, that’s a figure that is certain to climb. Indeed, month-on-month searches for ‘Joe Gelhardt’ in October 2021 increased by 139% off the back of his heroics against Wolves.

Competition for places

His main rivals in the Leeds squad are Tyler Roberts and Rodrigo Moreno.

With Moreno the preferred option to start, Roberts is often used by Bielsa as an option off the bench. There are signs, though, that the tide is turning in Joffy’s favour.

Bielsa, though, will continue to manage him carefully and he’s expected to be used more frequently and to gain more minutes as the season progresses.

Which current player do they compare to?

As a Scouser and a deep-lying forward, Wayne Rooney (OK, not current!) is the obvious talent. He’s been compared to others too – Jack Grealish for his dribbling skills and the way he draws a foul. His stocky build has also drawn links to former Liverpool man Xherdan Shaqiri.

Percentage chance of making it at Leeds

95%

And the others

Leeds are blessed with a huge talent pool in their Under-23s with Crysensio Summerville, Stuart McKinstry, Jack Jenkins, Amari Miller, Max Dean, Leo Hjelde and Cody Drameh also emerging as excellent prospects.

Indeed, Summerville and Drameh have both featured regularly on matchday duty and have also been recognised by their country’s Under-21s set-ups. Drameh also started for England Under-21s against Georgia on Wednesday, though did not have his best game.

McKinstry is another who has made his first-team debut this season.

And while Miller – a £1.5m signing from Birmingham – is yet to feature, he’s a well-searched name among Leeds fans. As such, he’s the fourth most searched for Leeds youngster on our list. Max Dean, another young striker of whom much is expected, featured fifth on our list of Google searches.

A word from TEAMtalk’s Editor

TEAMtalk editor James Marshment, who regularly watches Leeds Under-23s, says of the above research and article: “We have looked into search intelligence around Leeds United Under-23 players utilising Similarweb for a number of reasons.

“Firstly, we’re able to ascertain data on what fans are looking for helping us to understand more about the thinking of sports fans, in this instance for Leeds United.

“Secondly, with a series of home fixtures for the under 23s at Elland Road, Leeds fans are taking greater note of the emerging young stars.

“We understand Marcelo Bielsa likes to involve young players within his first-team set-up. However, these new insights allow us to assess and project which U23 players are most searched for by fans.

“It also gives a clue too over who are leading the race to break into the first XI.”

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