Leeds United signed Ian Poveda from Manchester City last January, but the Englishman is yet to feature for his new club. Now with Marcelo Bielsa eyeing Premier League promotion, the exiled Poveda runs the risk of residing in the doldrums unless he can impress before their inevitable promotion.
Nobody had really heard of Poveda before Leeds signed him last January. The 20-year-old left Manchester City after making just one first-team appearance under Pep Guardiola, and he’s still waiting for his first at Leeds. Born in London, Poveda initially became part of the Chelsea youth set-up, before going on to spend time at all of Arsenal, Barcelona, Brentford and Manchester City. To add to that, Poveda has featured for England at every level from U16 to U20.
Why then, for a young player with the history and potential of Poveda’s, is he seemingly so far from first-team action at Elland Road? Bielsa is a known perfectionist. The man whose peers have hailed him as a ‘messiah’ of management is known for his relentless fitness regimes in training – or ‘murderball’ drills – which is the underlying factor behind his managerial ethos.
Leeds have always been a combative team but under Bielsa, they’ve developed a sincere level of fitness which has enabled them to be the Championship’s most dominant force throughout this campaign. It’s taken a season for Bielsa to get his players’ fitness to the level that he demands, but with a point lead over 2nd-place West Brom, and seven over Fulham in 3rd, that ‘messiah’ tag that’s been banded around looks soon to be warranted.
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As for Poveda, and indeed any newcomer to this Leeds side, reaching the level of fitness that Bielsa demands from his first-team players is no easy feat. Look at Jean-Kevin Augustin for example – arriving in similar fashion to Poveda in that it was seen as a promotion-clinching signing, but even he has struggled to get a look in at the first-team since his January arrival. But although the temporary break in football came at a terrible time for Leeds as they look at end their 16-year hiatus from the Premier League, it might’ve come at the perfect time for Poveda.
Whether or not he’ll feature in any of Leeds’ final nine games of the season remains unclear, but what is certain is that Poveda now stands a better chance of featuring for Leeds before they reach (rather if they reach) the Premier League. With promotion in sight, Leeds also have a summer of transition ahead of them. Bielsa will need to bolster every position in his squad to become the ‘Leeds of old’, and if Poveda can make his debut for the club before then, and impress, then a Premier League debut may be on the horizon as well.
But the opposite of that – Poveda not featuring at all for Leeds before the end of the season – could spell the start of an arduous Elland Road experience for the Englishman. It’s hard to see Bielsa favouring Poveda in the Premier League if he doesn’t favour him in the Championship, and even if Poveda shows progress in training, breaking into a Premier League first-team with no prior experience at any sort of club level is nigh on impossible.
The final few weeks of the season then is a crucial few weeks for Poveda. He’s yet to play for his new club yet his future already seems to be in doubt. There’s no doubt about his potential though. It’s likely that Poveda will still fulfil his stardom potential eventually, but whether or not that’ll be with Leeds lies very much within the forthcoming fixtures.