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Leeds United 19/20 vs Leeds United 23/24: Combined XI

Leeds United are once again riding high at the top end of the Championship and gunning for promotion to the Premier League.

Naturally, this has led to comparisons drawn between the Bielsa vintage of 2019/20 and the current side operating under the tutelage of Daniel Farke. Two esteemed Leeds United sides, one lucrative target. Here is our attempt to merge the two squads and produce a combined XI.

Goalkeeper: Illan Meslier

Illan Meslier. Credit: Imago Images

The first name on the team sheet is that of someone who straddles both eras – Illan Meslier. Plucked from the second tier of French football, Meslier cut a somewhat mysterious figure for the opening months of the 19/20 season before making his debut away to Arsenal in the FA Cup. An eight-game suspension handed to Kiko Casilla opened the door to Meslier in the league campaign and he never looked back.

Right-back: Luke Ayling

Luke Ayling. Credit: Imago Images

There can be no doubting the burgeoning, seemingly limitless talents of Archie Gray. Indeed despite not being his natural position, he was the main challenger for this slot, however, in this instance, we have opted for pure orthodoxy. Ayling, with his direct running and persistent overlapping, was the embodiment of a Bielsa full-back. Scorer of the last goal before the world stopped going round, it was virtually impossible to leave him out.

Centre-back: Ben White

Ben White. Credit: Imago Images

At the heart of Bielsa’s defence, White cruised through the promotion season with an authority that betrayed his tender years. An exceptional ball-playing defender, he was coolness personified. White’s exemplary displays ensured it didn’t take long for the Elland Road faithful to get over the departure of cult hero Pontus Jansson. Arguably the greatest loan signing Leeds have ever made.

Centre-back: Joe Rodon

Joe Rodon. Credit: Imago Images

On the subject of great loan signings in the heart of defence, our next entry is cut from the same cloth and is the first exclusive member of the Farke brigade to make our XI. Vision, reading of the game, the ability to carry the ball, Rodon has it all. His performances in the white shirt this season are cast-iron proof he can cut it at a higher level. If Leeds go up, Joe Rodon’s name will be top of the shopping list.

Left-back: Stuart Dallas

Stuart Dallas. Credit: Imago Images

Unequivocally, left-back was the hardest position to fill by virtue of the fact Leeds themselves have perennially struggled to uncover a fixed solution in this area. Dallas was the Swiss Army Knife Bielsa turned to so often and the leading candidate. Fearless, energetic, and multifaceted tactically, he was reliability personified. Legend is a word thrown around far too easily but in the case of Dallas, it doesn’t even tell half the story.

Centre-midfield: Kalvin Phillips

Kalvin Phillips. Credit: Imago Images

After a frustrating few years of failing to cement a regular role in the team, the appointment of Marcelo Bielsa serendipitously changed the life and career of  Phillips. By the time the promotion campaign came around one year later, his metier had well and truly been found at the base of midfield. Bielsa, as he so often did, called it correctly when amid the promotion celebrations he bellowed at the homegrown hero; “The best! The best! Thank you, Kalvin, thank you.”

Centre-midfield: Ethan Ampadu

Ethan Ampadu. Credit: Imago Images

A permanent home at Elland Road has stood in stark contrast to the transactional, loveless environment of the Chelsea loan carousel for Ampadu. Possessing an innate ability bordering a sixth sense to sniff out danger and break it up, Ampadu simply couldn’t be left out of this XI. He has oozed class since joining last summer and the £7m fee paid for him is beginning to resemble chicken feed.

Attacking-midfield: Georginio Rutter

Georginio Rutter. Credit: Imago Images

Daniel Farke’s decision to permanently house Rutter in the No10 role has seen the young Frenchman transform from scapegoat to piéce de résistance in a short space of time. Last summer represented a sliding doors moment when Borrusia Monchengladbach came calling and how Leeds have benefited greatly from Rutter’s desire to make this work.

Right-wing: Pablo Hernandez (C)

Pablo Hernandez. Credit: Imago Images

Not only does the elegant and electric Pablo make this XI he captains it. From Bobby Collins to Gordon Strachan, pivotal moments in the history of Leeds United have been shaped and spearheaded by experienced professionals leading by example. For the 19/20 side, Pablo was that man. Hernandez is one of the greatest players to grace Elland Road. He was a footballing sage and we were lucky to have him.

Left-wing: Crysencio Summerville

Crysencio Summerville. Credit: Imago Images

Summerville would bring to this amalgamated dream team what he presently brings to Leeds United on a weekly basis – style, swagger, and quality. Can there currently be a more regular theme in the nightmares of Championship right-backs than that of Summerville turning them inside out before unleashing a rocket at goal? It seems unlikely and for that reason, the Dutch wideman was a shoo-in for this spot.

Centre-forward: Patrick Bamford

Patrick Bamford. Credit: Imago Images

Who else? The man who divides opinion like few others at Elland Road, but whatever’s thrown in his direction he has the distinction of being the first choice number nine for both Bielsa and Farke. History will treat Bamford kindly, whatever his shortcomings he epitomises the sacrosanct ethos of side before self.

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