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Leeds United almost signed 22-year-old who Pep Guardiola called ‘the best player on the planet’

Soccer Football – Premier League – Fulham v Manchester City – Craven Cottage, London, Britain – May 11, 2024 Manchester City’s Josko Gvardiol celebrates scoring his third goal REUTERS/David Klein EDITORIAL USE ONLY. DO NOT USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXED LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGS OR “LIVE” SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 120 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. DO NOT USE IN SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER BETTING, GAMES OR PUBLICATIONS. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR ACCOUNT REPRESENTATIVE FOR MORE DETAILS..

Leeds United could have signed Josko Gvardiol in the summer of 2020 after promotion, but the defender opted against a move to the Premier League, now tearing it up for Manchester City.

Leeds and the 49ers will be hoping the next two weeks of their play-off campaign prove successful to line up a return to the Premier League.

Ambitious spending will be on the cards if that happens, as will the club’s first promotion back to the top flight in 2020.

Leeds almost signed Josko Guardiol for £18m

In 2020, when Marcelo Bielsa was trying to build a Leeds side capable of staying in the front row indefinitely, replacing Ben White at the back was vital.

Diego Llorente and Robin Koch were replacements for around £30m, but they weren’t the only targets the club had in mind.

Croatian youngster Josko Gvardiol has been on the club’s radar and close to signing for the Albi, with Fabrizio Romano saying that Dinamo Zagreb have agreed to his £18m sale.

However, the deal ultimately fell through as the player turned down the opportunity to move to Leeds, choosing RB Leipzig instead.

His reason for rejecting Leeds was because Guardiol believed he was not ready for Premier League football at the age of 18.

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Josko Gvardiol has been called “the best player on the planet” by Pep Guardiola

Gvardiol was a slow signing at Man City after joining from Leipzig for £77.6m, taking time to acclimatise to the top class and the hybrid demands of manager Pep Guardiola when playing in its defensive configuration.

He may have been justified in turning down Leeds, given he arrived three years older, aged 21, in the summer and still needed an adjustment period.

However, it now appears that Leeds were right to scout the Croatia international, with Guardiola now finding a new level from him.

Not only has he proven himself to be a solid modern defender with the pace and power to keep up with Premier League attackers in transition, but he has become more than a decent asset in possession.

He went into the weekend with three goals and one assist since the start of April, but added to his tally further away at Fulham, scoring a stunning goal befitting a world-class full-back:

After the game, Guardiola had this to say about the 22-year-old defender’s brace at Craven Cottage (on talkSPORT):

“First goal… we signed the best player on the planet!

“After Wolves, three days off, he was the only one who went to the training center for recovery.

“We make an incredible signing for many, many years to come.”

Leeds must now wonder what would have become of Gvardiol if he had backed himself up as a teenager to move up to the Premier League.

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