The manner in which Leeds United and Middlesbrough have started the new campaign strongly suggests that both clubs will be in the mix for a play-off place at the very least come the end of the season, but they have been forced to place their Championship campaigns on hold due to the arrival of another international break.
The two week hiatus which international’s throw up can be incredibly frustrating for supporters, but it offers onlookers the opportunity to asses their player’s credentials within a different footballing environment.
As Republic of Ireland went head-to-head with Northern Ireland yesterday evening, Stuart Dallas and George Saville were both selected in Michael O’Neil’s starting line-up in the 0-0 draw.
They are two markedly different players but they both could play key roles in the promotion bids of their respective sides, so let’s take a look at the importance of both players and assess which signing represented the best value for money…
A left-winger by trade, Dallas has become Marcelo Bielsa’s utility player this season due to a succession of injuries at full-back.
But the Northern Ireland international looked sharp in a more familiar left-wing role last night and his performance could be a sign of things to come at Elland Road.
Signed for a fee of just £1.7 million in 2015, Dallas is looking like a real steal on current form, and the manner in which he troubled Seamus Coleman last night suggests he wouldn’t be out of place in the top-flight.
TT Grade: A
Although Saville plays in a position which doesn’t require the same glamour which an attacking wide position demands, he cost Middlesbrough significantly more than Dallas earlier this year.
Saville joined Boro at the start of the 2017/18 campaign on an initial loan deal which was pre-agreed to be made permanent in January for a fee of £7 million.
But his place in the starting eleven is not guaranteed under Pulis amidst competition from the likes of Mo Besic and Paddy McNair.
Saville will have an important role to play if Boro are to clinch promotion this season, but he certainly doesn’t possess the same level of influence which Dallas will have as Leeds push to end their top-flight exile.
TT Grade: B+
Considering Dallas and Saville alongside each other in terms of their price, quality and relative importance to their clubs, it’s fair to say Leeds have the better of the two players.
On international duty Dallas was the standout performer for Northern Ireland and the level of quality he demonstrated was another compelling piece of evidence to support the claim that Leeds grabbed a bargain from Brentford.
The best is yet to come from Saville in the north east and at £7 million he has plenty of expectation to live up to, but he will need to improve sooner rather than later to step out of Dallas’ shadow.
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