Leeds United

Leeds United

Premier League • England

Leeds coach wowed by Wilfried Gnonto, naming standout trait from ‘fantastic’ Elland Road introduction

Willy Gnonto, August 2022

Leeds United Under-21 coach Michael Skubala has revealed his excitement at new signing Wilfried Gnonto just weeks after joining the club.

The Whites endured a mad dash on transfer deadline day to get a deal for the Italy international over the line. Chief executive Angus Kinnear had insisted no new attacking additions were on their way – until Rodrigo’s shoulder injury.

At first, Leeds tried to sign Bamba Dieng from Marseille, but he ended up staying at the French club amid Nice interest.

Gnonto was initially a January transfer target for Leeds. Indeed, boss Jesse Marsch admitted earlier this summer that the 18-year-old is not Premier League ready. The manager added that he would be a long-term project.

Nevertheless, he is at Elland Road now and is in line for his debut on Friday. Gnonto could feature for the Whites’ Under-21 team, managed by Skubala.

The coach said of the new arrival: “I’m really looking forward to working with Willy. He’s come in and he’s a really good young man.

“He’s a really good character to have around the building, he’s experienced already for such a young player, but he’s quite an exciting player and he’s one of those players I hope the fans will get behind and see the excitement he can bring to Leeds United.”

Gnonto already has four caps for the senior Italy team – and subsequent belief in him from the very top.

He signed for Leeds from FC Zurich in Switzerland and could have a big future ahead.

Gnonto wows Leeds coach Skubala

“What another good opportunity to have a young talent come into the club and how we can support that talent and move him through the structures into the first-team,” Skubala added to Leeds Live in his assessment.

“It will be good for the fans to see him live. He’s in contention for tomorrow with a lot of other players, my interactions with him have been fantastic.”

Gnonto will have the chance to make his mark alongside more senior players at Leeds.

Patrick Bamford, Luke Ayling, Junior Firpo and Liam Cooper could all play a part against Southampton on Friday. The quartet are recovering from injury and are looking to aid their recovery with minutes. Indeed, the first-team’s clash with Manchester United on Sunday has been postponed.

Skubala added that the prospect of adding more “exciting young prospects” at Leeds is “really exciting”.

New signing on familiar pathway

Leeds have developed a host of impressive names in recent seasons – and more are on the way.

Under Marcelo Bielsa and current boss Marsch, Crysencio Summerville, Joe Gelhardt and Sam Greenwood are among the cohort to have risen quickly through the ranks and into the first team.

The added excitement for Gnonto, though, is that he is a fully-fledged international unlike those aforementioned talents.

And that sets him apart, while adding to a growing reputation he will look to uphold.

There is, of course, a word of caution to be had over Gnonto’s rise. Marsch has insisted that he wanted the teenager to be a long-term project at the club.

Nevertheless, his arrival adds to an exciting environment for the future that Leeds are creating.

If they can continue to stay in the Premier League, it only improves their chances of helping their cohort of talents become impressive players.