A former Leeds United star admits the dawning of the Yorkshire side’s reawakening under Marcelo Bielsa means he may have departed Elland Road too soon.
The Whites are seven games into their second season back in the Premier League with mercurial Argentine coach Bielsa now into his fourth campaign in charge.
And while they have started slowly this time around, United finally have their first win this season after sinking Watford 1-0 on Saturday.
That win was certainly well deserved – leaving Bielsa to pick out two outstanding Leeds performers.
And the victory lifts the Whites up to 16th, easing their concerns about a difficult season ahead.
When all things are considered though, Bielsa has performed miracles in establishing Leeds in the Premier League. Indeed, in their recent 2-2 draw with Everton, the match was achieved with eight of the 11 who started Bielsa’s first game in charge three seasons earlier.
One player who has enjoyed a significant rise under Bielsa’s tutelage is Kalvin Phillips. Utilised as an attacking midfielder in the season before his arrival, Bielsa transformed the star into a defensive midfielder instead.
Since then, Phillips has not looked back. The homegrown star has earned England recognition and also frequently sees his name linked with multiple big-money transfers.
However, Phillips is happy at Leeds and talks over a new deal should soon reach a “positive outcome”, as per his agent.
Indeed, his development has been watched in close quarters by his good friend and former teammate Alex Mowatt.
The midfielder, now 26, is currently thriving in a West Brom looking well placed to push for promotion this season.
And all being well, Mowatt will himself be a Premier League player this time next season.
However, he may well have made it there sooner had he stayed at Leeds and benefited from Bielsa.
Reflecting on his exit, Mowatt admits that perhaps he departed Elland Road too soon.
“Yes, maybe,” said Mowatt when asked about whether he moved too soon. “He’s one of the best managers in the world. To see the transformation on a lot of the players who are there, when I was there and they are playing in the Premier League, week in and week out and doing really well.
“You never know what could have happened. Maybe I left too early.”
Mowatt left Leeds in January 2017, securing a move to Barnsley. However, after six months he found himself in League One, having been sent out on loan to Oxford.
But having joined the Baggies in the summer, Mowatt will now have his eyes on securing promotion to the Premier League.
Barcelona’s struggles to appoint Xavi could open door to two other potential Koeman successors
Struijk names Liverpool man as inspiration
Pascal Struijk, meanwhile, admits he looks to Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk as an inspiration.
“Seeing what he’s achieved and what he’s doing now over the last few years makes him someone I can look up to,” Struijk told the official Leeds matchday programme.
“Obviously I want to do the same here. He’s one of the best. When I watch other games I like to watch my own position and see if I can take anything from the big players and how they do it.”
Assessing his aims for the 2021/22 campaign, Struijk said bluntly: “Well, basically the same. I want to play as much as possible. There are no guarantees.
“I will try to get some goals hopefully too. But again, the most important thing for me is to play as much as possible and the team to do well.
“I think it’s going to be more difficult now because people know how we’re going to play. And now they have more to analayse about us. But it’s the same for us.
“It’s going to be difficult as we had a really good season last year. But nothing is impossible and we’ll see where we can get.”
READ MORE: Scouting mission proves successful as Leeds join race for Liverpool target