It was not long ago when Leeds United were considered a beacon of hope for English football. Under Marcelo Bielsa, the team played a very attractive brand of football that drew comparisons with the famous Barcelona tactical system tiki-taka. However, Bielsa’s luck ran out as he was fired in February 2022 and was replaced by Red Bull Salzburg’s Jesse Marsch, but results have not improved, and the club is currently in a scrap to avoid relegation. Thus, the club needs all the resources it can muster to survive the drop, and it is here that Wilfried Gnonto, their 19-year-old talented winger, could play a pivotal role.
One of Leeds’ best youth players, Gnonto, is considered a player with very high potential who could very well become a future star. Brought for a sum of Leeds in the summer of 2022 for an undisclosed fee, Gnonto has already shown glimpses of his brilliant talent.
But who is Wilfried Gnonto, and how good is he?
Playing career so far
Wilfried Gnonto was born on November 5, 2003, in Verbania, the capital city of the Verbano-Cusio-Ossola province and started his career in his hometown at the age of five years. He stayed in his hometown for another four years before he joined Inter Milan’s youth academy.
He stayed at the club for eight years between 2012-20, where he made his mark across various club youth teams. And at 17 years of age, he made a bold call to switch his clubs and go to a different nation altogether.
In 2020 he went and joined the Swiss club Zurich and was sent to their reserve team. However, it was evident from the start that even at such a young age, he was too good for Zurich B. Gnonto was promoted to the first team, and he would go on to make 62 appearances for the next two seasons.
This caught the eyes of Leeds United, who snapped him up for an undisclosed fee. He was signed on a five-year contract and, just in his first season, has made 11 appearances, showing how quickly he has become an integral part of the Premier League team.
Wilfried Gnonto stats
In his first season in Switzerland, Gnonto would make 26 appearances scoring one goal and providing four assists. The very next season, he would play a critical role for his team, scoring eight goals and providing three assists in the Swiss league, helping FC Zurich win their first league title in 13 years.
And his record-breaking form has continued this season in the Premier League. Playing 806 minutes across 11 games, Gnonto scored two goals and provided one assist. And while his Expected Threat (xT) rating might only be a total of 1.25, with 0.79 coming from passing and the rest from carries, a look at xT per 90 minutes tells a very different story. According to Soccerment, Gnonto is the seventh-best player on xT from passes and the eighth-best player on xT from carries. Again, this shows how quickly he has adjusted to the demands of the Premier League.
16 – Since his first start in November, Wilfried Zaha (17) is the only attacking player who has been fouled more often than Wilfried Gnonto (16) in the Premier League. Animator.
Here, @jamiemkemp details how the teenager became @LUFC's surprise catalyst:https://t.co/LNWuPgZpw6
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 27, 2023
Wilfried Gnonto scout report
As mentioned earlier, Gnonto is a menace to the opposition when he has the ball at his feet. And the youngster has the ability to move the ball forward equally well through passing or carrying it. This is validated by fbref, according to whom the teenager completes 4.47 progressive carries per 90 minutes among the top 12 percentile of wingers and attacking midfielders.
Gnonto is the classic definition of the modern winger who usually tries to receive the ball near the touchline to widen the field as much as possible and also destroy the opposing team’s shape. However, he likes to drift inside once near the goal and get the ball on his favoured right foot.
At Leeds, he has also added another important skill; tracking back to help his team out defensively. According to fbref, he almost wins one tackle per match in the middle third among the top 10 percentile of wingers and attacking midfielders.
However, despite preferring to play as an inverted winger, Gnonto is also very accurate with crosses, something not usually seen in these types of players. Furthermore, his passing, especially in the final third of the pitch, could improve, making him an even more dangerous player.
What makes him special
One of the major problems that any new player, be they young or old, a newbie or talented, face is adjusting to the physicality and fast pace nature of the game in the Premier League. We have seen massive failures due to players not getting adjusted to these demands of the league.
However, Gnonto is a different gravy and has shown no signs that he is a 19-year-old playing his first senior career in one of the best leagues in the world. In modern football, surviving the level of physicality season after season is a talent few players have; Having that mental fortitude backing your impeccable skills go a long way in determining how bright your future is.
So, while there are better players than Wilfried Gnonto in the league, only some have the physical attributes and the mental strength to adjust quickly and not only survive but thrive at such a competitive level.
Wilfried Gnonto’s potential and transfer news
Wilfried Gnonto is a player that is bound to have a fantastic career if he continues on this path. By 19, he has already proven his worth in a Premier League team and is currently one of their new faces who could save them from relegation.
And even if he has a five-year contract, for Leeds United to keep him from surviving relegation is a must. A player of Gnonto’s calibre is too talented for the Championship, and if they take the drop, expect him to be at another club in the Premier League or at least the top five leagues.
However, saving Leeds United from relegation will be a better achievement on his already amazon CV, which will land him a transfer in some years to a top club where we could see him emerge as one of the prominent faces for the next crop of footballing superstars.