New Leeds boss Bielsa shortlists 14 players safe from the axe

Marcelo Bielsa has quickly identified a core of 14 players he wants to keep at Leeds, according to reports in the local media.

Argentinian coach Bielsa, 62, was appointed United boss earlier this month and used his first press conference to bat away both Leeds’ promotion expectations and the plaudits sent his way by both Pep Guardiola and Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino.

The new Leeds boss, however, is well known for his meticulous planning and is reported to have watched every minute of every game during the club’s disappointing 2017/18 campaign in a bid to identify the club’s strengths and weaknesses.

That is something he alluded to during his first press conference at the club when he admitted he “knew as much about Leeds United as any foreign coach can expect to know”.

And with the club reporting back for pre-season training this week, Bielsa has been getting to know his players that bit better, with the squad asked to do double and sometimes triple training sessions as they are put through their paces.

According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Bielsa has already split his squad up into three parties: the senior stars he wants to keep; senior stars who still have a chance and those who represent the U23s squad; and those who have been told their futures lie elsewhere.

Of those that are considered safe, last season’s captain Liam Cooper led a 12-strong group on Wednesday, which also featured  Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Adam Forshaw, Kemar Roofe, Kalvin Phillips, Tom Pearce, Luke Ayling, Samuel Saiz, Pablo Hernandez, Stuart Dallas, Gjanni Alioski and Gaetano Berardi.

Pontus Jansson – currently away with Sweden at the World Cup – and Ronaldo Vieira – who has been afforded an extended break after England U21 duty – are also considered to be in the retained list.

Notable omissions from the 12 were Eunan O’Kane, Caleb Ekuban, Jay-Roy Grot, Hadi Sacko, Andy Lonergan, Luke Murphy, Laurens De Bock, Yosuke Ideguchi and Mateusz Klich.

Pawel Cibicki, who is set to quit the club, and Marcus Antonsson – destined to join Serie B Brescia – were also excluded from the 12-strong retained party.