Martinez ‘doesn’t want to start a war’ over contentious move for Leeds star

Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper, Pascal Struijk, Leeds celeb

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez insists he does not want to ‘create a war between federations’ as a Leeds star considers a potential international switch.

Pascal Struijk has not missed a league game for United since he came off the bench in his side’s 6-2 defeat against Manchester United in December.

The defender’s performances this season have attracted the attention of former Everton chief Martínez.

Despite representing the Netherlands at youth level, the 21-year-old can play for Belgium as he was born near Antwerp.

At the start of last month there were suggestions that the centre-back is ‘eligible for a Belgium passport’.

Struijk’s agent Tim Vrouwe then confirmed his client is considering the “possibility of applying for a Belgium passport”.

Martinez revealed that he has been following Struijk’s progress at Elland Road. Belgium are scheduled to face Wales, Czech Republic and Belarus in World Cup qualifiers later this month.

There was the possibility of Martínez including Struijk in his squad for those March games, but that has been dimsissed.

Bielsa seeks international steer

Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa thinks it shouldn't be up to clubs to decide whether players join up with their countries this month, after Jurgen Klopp suggested he might not release Liverpool players because of Covid risks.

Martínez told La Dernière Heure (as cited by Sport Witness): “In the meantime, it seems that Struijk’s heart has tilted towards the Netherlands. You have to have respect that, even if his profile is interesting.

“I don’t want to create a war between federations. He will therefore not be in my selection [for March]. However, this does not mean that the Struijk case is closed.”


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Bielsa talks up Raphinha qualities

Marcelo Bielsa has spoken about Raphinha’s impressive adaptation to life at Leeds – but having listed the Brazilian’s best qualities, has challenged the player to improve in one area.

The Whites travel to the London Stadium on Monday evening for a game against high-flying West Ham. It’s a match Bielsa knows won’t be easy for Leeds. As such, Bielsa has named the two Hammers stars who have caught his eye this season.

However, Leeds have a matchwinner of their own in Brazilian winger Raphinha.

Mesmeric winger Raphinha has proved a class above for the Whites this season. His form since a £17m move from Rennes this summer has captured the hearts of Leeds fans – and won the Brazilian an army of admirers in the process.

This week it was suggested that he could be in line for an immediate payrise at Elland Road. That’s after his form caught the eye of some of the world’s top clubs.

Bielsa, of course, leaves the financial side of things to chief executive Angus Kinnear and director of football Victor Orta.

The Argentine’s job is simply making his players the best they can be. And Bielsa knows he has a special talent in Raphinha, having listed the parts of his game he’s good at. Read more…