Leeds defender Pascal Struijk has made clear his career ambitions – having named the Liverpool star he often looks up to for inspiration.
The defender stepped off the bench on Saturday in the closing stages as Leeds finally claimed their first win of the season. The 1-0 win over Watford was certainly well deserved – leaving Marcelo Bielsa to pick out two outstanding Leeds performers.
In coming on as a 90th-minute substitute for Mateusz Klich, Struijk was appearing for Leeds for the 38th time.
Indeed, the vast chunk of those have come in the Premier League, with Struijk something of an unknown prior to Leeds’ promotion. In fact, during their promotion from the Championship, Struijk appeared just five times in a Leeds shirt.
However, the Belgium-born defender has taken to top-flight football brilliantly.
Now considered a vital member of Bielsa’s squad, Leeds recently felt aggrieved when Struijk was forced to serve a three-match ban.
However, now back in contention, Struijk will no doubt continue to feature prominently for United.
And while born in Belgium, Struijk moved to the Netherlands at the age of three. And it is with that country that he most sees himself representing on the international stage.
That’s not, however, stopped, something of a international tug-of-war emerging over his services.
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Furthermore, in an interview with the official Leeds United programme, Struijk admits he looks to Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk as inspiration.
“Seeing what he’s achieved and what he’s doing now over the last few years makes him someone I can look up to,” Struijk said.
“Obviously I want to do the same here. He’s one of the best. When I watch their (Liverpool) games I like to watch my own position and see if I can take anything from the big players and how they do it.”
Struijk reveals Leeds United aims
Struijk is competing with the likes of Liam Cooper, Diego Llorente and Robin Koch for a place in the side.
However, having made 29 appearances last season, the player hopes to continue his development this season.
Assessing his aims for the 2021/22 campaign, Struijk said bluntly: “Well, basically the same. I want to play as much as possible. There are no guarantees.
“I will try to get some goals hopefully too. But again, the most important thing for me is to play as much as possible and the team to do well.
“I think it’s going to be more difficult now because people know how we’re going to play. And now they have more to analayse about us. But it’s the same for us.
“It’s going to be difficult as we had a really good season last year. But nothing is impossible and we’ll see where we can get.”