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Is Pascal Struijk the Future of Leeds United’s Defence?

The more Pascal Struijk stars for Leeds United in the Premier League, the more it looks like the defender was the one that got away for Ajax. Indeed, the Dutch giants didn’t put up much of a fight when Leeds asked them if they would be prepared to let the player make the switch to West Yorkshire in 2018. In Ajax’s defense, the club was reasserting itself once more on the Champions League stage with the help of the most talented young players anywhere on the continent. From their position, it was understandably hard to see how Struijk would make inroads into the first team any time soon.

So, with very little fanfare or fuss, Struijk signed for the Whites in 2018 whilst the football world didn’t bat an eyelid. The 21-year-old would have to wait until December of 2019 to make his first-team debut with Leeds as the defender came on against Cardiff to protect Leeds’ 3-0 lead. In truth, it was ten minutes to forget for the young center-back after Cardiff managed to do the impossible and draw the game 3-3. A distraught Struijk, under criticism from some supporters, confided in those closest to him that he wanted to leave the club immediately afterward.

This reaction gave Leeds fans the first glimpse into the dynamic and conscientious personality of their new Dutch player. Indeed, the softly spoken defender felt an overwhelming sense of guilt and blamed himself for Leeds’ implosion against the Welsh side. Manager Marcelo Bielsa put an arm around Struijk and shielded him from any further criticism, and the defender was sent back to the u23s for the next eight months.

Then, incredibly, out of the blue, Struijk was called upon again during Leeds’ hour of need with the club within touching distance of the promised land of the Premier League. There could be no room for mistakes and Bielsa’s faith needed to be repaid as Leeds arrived at the most critical stage of their recent history.

This time, Strujk did not wilt under the heat of battle and instead stood firm for half an hour against Barnsley to help Leeds record a vital win. It was during that late afternoon on a sunny Elland Road pitch that Struijk came of age and ever since, he’s been a revelation for the Whites.

In many ways, it has been an extraordinary 12 months for the Dutchman given that he only managed five appearances in the Championship with Leeds, but has since played 21 times in the Premier League. Struijk’s performances have been so assured in England’s top-flight that Leeds awarded him a new contract until the summer of 2024.

Additionally, Struijk has helped the Whites climb the table after a run of games in the starting eleven, and extraordinarily, Leeds’ Premier League online betting odds for a top-half finish are only 2/5. Now, when you consider that the Elland Road side has only just been promoted, one can only conclude that this has been a phenomenal season for Struijk and Leeds.

Indeed, the 21-year-old even scored his first Premier League goal this season at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal and with every passing game, it looks as if the center-back will have a long and illustrious career in the most demanding league in the world.

Players of Struijk’s caliber do not come around all the time and Leeds will know as much. In an ideal scenario for the Whites, Struijk will continue learning his trade at Leeds before becoming the mainstay of their defense in the next couple of years. But watching on will be some of Europe’s best clubs who will be eager to make Struijk their own.

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