Leicester, Napoli in transfer battle for vastly underrated Leeds regular

Date published: Tuesday 23rd February 2021 1:02 - Dan Burnham

Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper, Pascal Struijk, Leeds celeb

Leicester City could be set for a transfer battle with Napoli for promising Leeds United defender Pascal Struijk, it has been reported.

The 21-year-old has featured heavily for Marcelo Bielsa’s side this season. Injuries to summer signings Diego Llorente and Robin Koch have allowed him to make 15 Premier League appearances.

His solid performances covering in not only the heart of the defence but also in defensive midfield have earnt him some major admirers.

According to De Telegraaf, the Dutchman’s rapid development has caught the eye of scouts from Leicester and Napoli. They are both reported to have inquired about his services.

Struijk joined Leeds in January 2018 and made just five appearances in their Championship title-winning campaign in 2019/20.

But he has featured heavily in recent weeks and is establishing himself as a top prospect.

His career started at the academy of ADO Den Haag. He moved to Ajax where he spent 18 months before making the switch to England.

The Yorkshire club tied him down to a new contract last November which would keep him at Elland Road until the summer of 2024.

There could also be a battle for Struijk’s international future. He featured three times for the Netherlands at under-17 level, but Belgium manager Roberto Martinez is said to be “charmed” by the player.

The report states that the former Everton boss has spoken with Struijk in an attempt to convince him to choose the Red Devils over the Oranje.

He could be set for a first international call-up in March.

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Swap deal for Juve star

Meanwhile, Bielsa’s reported interest in Douglas Costa will be met with a positive response from Juventus – but they will seek to sign a Leeds star as part of the deal, claim sources in Italy.

Brazilian winger Costa is back at former club Bayern Munich on a season’s loan. The 30-year-old has just 18 months left on his deal with the Serie A champions and looks surplus to the needs of coach Andrea Pirlo.

Leeds are reported to be keen on Costa, amid claims he is on Bielsa’s wanted list should they lose star man Raphinha.

The latter joined Leeds in a £17m switch from Rennes last summer and has proved one of the bargains of the season. Indeed, reports have suggested Leeds could face a battle to retain his services amid interest from Liverpool and Manchester United.

And were Leeds to enquire about signing Costa, CalcioMercato24 claim they would be given the green light to sign him. However, there appears a catch.

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