Injury-ravaged Leeds are in the market for a midfielder — and versatile Cagliari star Nahitan Nandez could be heading to Elland Road.
Reports from various outlets across Italy have suggested that the 26-year-old will be on the move during the current transfer window, with the Whites emerging as one of the favourites for his signature.
A lofty price tag is believed to have put the Yorkshire club off making a bid in the past, but they are back in the running now that he is available for a more reasonable transfer fee.
As Leeds prepare to face West Ham in the FA Cup this afternoon, we consider what Marcelo Bielsa’s side will be getting if they sign the Rossoblu’s in-demand Uruguayan.
Nandez has been a regular feature of the transfer rumour mill since his time at Boca Juniors, who he joined from his first club in Uruguay, Penarol.
He soon made the move to Europe with Cagliari where he is now in his third season, having helped the Sardinian side often tipped for relegation retain their Serie A status.
This season, though, they appear marooned in the bottom three, and may already have one eye on Serie B — as well as trying to shuffle their pack ahead of a relegation scrap in the early part of 2022.
Selling Nandez could give Cagliari some room to manoeuvre in the market, and the Uruguayan has already been linked with clubs across Europe.
The main Premier League clubs showing interest in Nandez over the past year have been London-based outfits West Ham and Tottenham.
But Leeds have also been linked in the past, though the asking price during the previous transfer window was considered too high and the 5ft 7in dynamo remained at Cagliari.
Now, with a more realistic price tag of around £16million, and his current club seemingly more open to selling, the Whites have emerged as the favourites for his signature.
A Swiss Army knife
Nandez’s ability to play in midfield, as well as wing-back, might lead to comparisons with current Leeds utility man Stuart Dallas.
There are certainly similarities — hard-working, versatile team players, who always give 100%.
Cagliari’s No18 is currently playing on the right of a midfield three in a 3-5-2 for the Rossoblu, but his tendency to push wide and forward can make their shape look more like 3-4-3, with Nandez operating as the right-sided attacker.
There is a great deal of energy to his play, if not always a an excess of finesse, but in the chaos of a pressing system he could undoubtedly thrive.
He is also able to drive his team forward with the ball, and this progressive mindset can often lead to the creation of chances.
The Punta del Este native’s application and teamwork has made him popular with fans wherever he has played in the past, and despite the occasional technical shortcoming, he would be a good signing for a club looking to add some all-round quality to their squad.
The price is right
Nandez’s attributes would fit perfectly with Marcelo Bielsa’s tireless pressing system perhaps better than they would at some of the other clubs linked with signing him.
He is a player of Premier League quality, though perhaps not ready for the division’s upper echelons, and could thrive at Elland Road more than he would at one of the London clubs.
The rumoured new price tag is also more realistic for a player of his ability and is likely to be the reason that Leeds’ director of football, Victor Orta, is more open to doing a deal this time around.
Former Boca Juniors star Nandez is more of a solid signing than a noticeable upgrade and his price should reflect that.
This said, with the right coaching and in the right system, he could still improve and go on to command a higher fee in years to come.
Room for progress
A number of players who were previously at Championship level have grown into Premier League stars under Bielsa.
A similar improvement from Nandez would see him go from being a steady, reliable mid-table player in any of Europe’s top leagues to one who would be of interest to clubs who regularly qualify for Europe.
A player does not get 49 caps for Uruguay without having something about them and Nandez was a regular for his country in both the Copa America and World Cup qualifying throughout 2021.
Adding someone who has played in a top-level league such as Serie A and looks a good fit for their system off the ball — and potentially on it — could be a shrewd move for Leeds.
At 26, Nandez is now approaching what are often considered the peak years for a midfielder, making this a transfer that could suit all parties.