In our relaunched weekly Scout feature, we take a deep dive into an emerging player on track to become a footballing superstar before our very eyes.
This week’s edition focuses on Leeds United forward Joe Gelhardt, a player recently described as a ‘bargain of a lifetime’…
Despite his tender years and Latics’ perilous situation, the youngster was afforded ample opportunity to impress.
Gelhardt amassed 18 Championship appearances, but it was his international form over the last 18 months that took the eye. He conquered both the under-17s and 18s with a goalscoring ratio of better than one strike in two. A promotion to the under-19s duly followed in October.
With his stock rising month by month, the Premier League vultures began to circle.
Wigan’s financial issues necessitated a fire-sale of several of their hottest prospects, with Gelhardt rousing the attentions of Liverpool and Tottenham after tentatively being described as ‘the next Harry Kane’.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds Utd emerged victorious in the sweepstakes, however, with the versatile forward brought on board for the incredibly generous sum of £1m.
Why the hype?
A common theme in football is to reel off a long list of attributes a youngster possesses in his locker. In Gelhardt’s case, it’d be simpler to list those he doesn’t have as a forward. There’s only one – experience.
Initially operating primarily as a centre-forward with Wigan, Gelhardt has shifted to a deeper role with Leeds in the Premier League 2. Frequently deployed as a second striker, the positional alteration allows the 18-year-old greater opportunity to showcase his greatest asset – lightning quick feet.
That most eye-catching trait centres around the vast amount of touches he takes while dribbling with the ball. That’s not from a lack of sure-footedness, however. Quite the opposite.
He possesses the rare ability to dribble at pace without the ball ever leaving his close area of control. His style will entice and bamboozle top class defenders in equal measure.
The sight of an unfortunate marker lunging into a tackle he had little chance of making will soon become commonplace.
Reminds you of a young…?
Currently standing at 5 ft 9in, his stocky build, gifted left foot and sharp acceleration immediately brings up visions of Liverpool’s enigmatic forward Xherdan Shaqiri.
His close control and innate ability to lure unsuspecting defenders into committing fouls is also reminiscent of Aston Villa talisman Jack Grealish when charging forward in full flow.
The difference between those two aforementioned Premier League players, is consistency. Shaqiri can be a nine out of 10 one week and barely crack a five the next.
Grealish is the exact opposite, and it is that consistency that Gelhardt must find if the Premier League is to become his playground in the years to come.
The most obvious comparison though is that of Wayne Rooney. Liverpool, born, of stocky build and a wonderful attacking talent, who likes to drop deep.
🤯 What a goal Joffy! pic.twitter.com/knnsSs6MX9
— Leeds United (@LUFC) November 1, 2020
Impressed? Check out YouTube compilations of his 2019-20 season. You won’t regret it.
The Experts’ View
It can be notoriously difficult to judge a young player from afar. As a result, the words of those monitoring the player on a day-to-day basis assume greater weight.
Wigan Post journalist, Paul Kendrick, described Leeds’ acquisition of the starlet as the ‘bargain of a lifetime’.
James. Mate. Save this tweet. You will never in your lifetime see Leeds pick up a bigger bargain than Joe Gelhardt at £1million. You have no idea how good this kid will become. 👍
— Paul Kendrick (@PKendrickWIG) October 3, 2020
High praise, so you’d think with that level of talent, being handed his Premier League bow by Bielsa can’t be far off, right? Correct, and it could be coming sooner than you think.
The Argentine supremo recently revealed he has been keeping an eye on the performance of their under-23s squad “closely”, with Gelhardt specifically said to be “progressing” well.
Tell us something we don’t know…
Referred to those who know him as ‘Joffy’, it was left to his dedicated Mum Lynne to explain why…
“It’s actually from the classic 1980s’ film ‘Coming to America’ starring Eddie Murphy,” she told the Wigan Evening Post.
“James Earl-Jones plays Murphy’s Dad – King Jaffe Joffer, King of Zamuda.
“Joe’s uncle, also called Joe, was nicknamed Joffy and the moniker was passed to his nephew!”
A perfect fit for…?
The obvious answer is Leeds, but the bigger question is in what position.
Despite his once-erratic form in front of goal, Patrick Bamford is the first name on Bielsa’s teamsheet. Gelhardt is unlikely to change that in the near future.
Spanish summer recruit Rodrigo has recently been deployed behind Bamford, though Bielsa has shown no qualms over operating with an entirely left-footed forward line with Helder Costa and Jack Harrison on the flanks.
Starts would appear to be an ambitious thought at this stage, but don’t be surprised to see Gelhardt given the task of providing an impact from the bench in a similar vein to that of fellow youngster Ian Poveda as the season wears on.
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