Transfer Talk: McKennie coup can aid Leeds' survival scrap
Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie is edging closer to a Premier League switch.
Bianconeri boss Max Allegri is supposedly willing to let the 24-year-old depart Turin this month if the price is right, with both Arsenal and Leeds said to be keen on acquiring the USA international.
Ahead of Juve's clash with Monza on Sunday, we take a closer look at McKennie's career to date and what he could offer his prospective buyers.
Leap of faith
McKennie spent the bulk of his childhood in Texas but did enjoy three years living in the German city of Kaiserslautern between the ages of six and nine.
That stint would prove to be a sign of things to come, with the promising prospect opting to turn down a senior contract offer from FC Dallas and instead join Bundesliga outfit Schalke in 2016.
It was a bold move for a teenager to uproot his entire life so drastically, but one that has paid off in glorious fashion.
Progressing through Schalke's youth and reserve ranks quickly, McKennie established himself as a regular in Domenico Tedesco’s midfield during the 2017-18 campaign and was influential as Die Knappen secured an impressive second-placed finish behind Bayern Munich.
His reputation sky-rocketed further during the following season, when his impressive versatility — plugging gaps ranging from centre-back to centre forward — caught the eye of some of Europe’s grandest clubs.
By the summer of 2020, he was joining Serie A giants Juventus in a loan deal that would quickly be made permanent for an initial outlay of around £16million.
Though McKennie’s fortunes in Italy have been mixed, he has never looked out of place at the highest level.
In his first season, only Adrien Rabiot and Dejan Kulusevski topped the American’s 46 appearances across all competitions, with Juve finishing fourth in Serie A and lifting the Coppa Italia.
His performances at the base of midfield were largely impressive, also chipping in with six goals — though it was not enough to save his head coach Andrea Pirlo from the sack.
Club legend Allegri subsequently returned for a second stint in charge of the Old Lady and kept faith with McKennie in his new-look side, before disaster struck in February last year.
A fractured metatarsal sustained in a Champions League tie at Villarreal would rule the 41-cap international out until the season’s final fixture.
Though he has wrestled his starting berth back this term, reports in Italy suggest Allegri is confident of finding a suitable replacement should the club receive a lucrative offer for his services.
Arsenal and Leeds are said to be leading the chase for McKennie — two clubs experiencing very contrasting campaigns.
The Gunners are flying high at the top of the Premier League and Mikel Arteta is looking to bolster his squad for the run-in, with central midfield known to be an area of concern.
If Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey or Granit Xhaka were to get injured, question marks hang over the quality of their backup options and McKennie would be a vast improvement in that regard.
He also covers plenty of other positions, so logically, he is the dream addition to an already thriving group.
A move to West Yorkshire could appeal for different reasons, however.
Though the Whites are locked in a relegation scrap, the opportunity to play regular football and join Jesse Marsch’s American revolution alongside Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson would surely tempt McKennie.
At just 24, McKennie’s best years are still to come and his physical and technical skillset should see him settle quickly into Premier League life.
Though it will understandably be hard to leave behind the lure of Champions League football, Elland Road appears the perfect venue for him to learn the ropes in England’s top tier.
The move would represent a serious coup for under-fire Marsch, following on from the captures of FC Salzburg defender Max Wober and Hoffenheim forward Georginio Rutter earlier this month.
Intriguingly, Marsch’s fellow American Chris Armas was hired as assistant head coach on Wednesday, suggesting the Leeds board are fully standing by their man.
If they secure McKennie, the 49-year-old can have few excuses when it comes to steering his side away from the bottom three.