Former Leeds United defender Danny Mills expects the Elland Road natives to face a fight to retain the services of on-loan Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White, as told to Football Insider.
The Seagulls-owned ace has been in terrific form since making the step up from League One to the Championship with Leeds, as he continues to hold down the second starting centre-back spot alongside captain Liam Cooper (WhoScored).
Mills has particularly been impressed by the 21-year-old’s composure in possession, in a role that is key to the way Marcelo Bielsa entrusts his players to operate, as the Argentine head coach encourages his men to play out from the back.
White had never competed in a division as high in the football ladder as the Championship before his arrival at Elland Road on loan from Brighton, and had big shoes to fill at the West Yorkshire side following the departure of Pontus Jansson.
He has risen to the occasion more than adequately, it would seem, as Leeds currently boast the best defensive record in the second-tier having conceded just two goals in their first five games (WhoScored) – half that of the next best side.
White has also made the second-most successful tackles per ninety minutes of any United player to have featured for more than 100 minutes in the league (WhoScored) with an average 2.6 from 3.0 attempts, as well as the most interceptions (3.4) and third-most clearances (3.6).
The 5 ft 9 ace rarely wastes possession, either, with just 22 of his 298 short balls failing to find a teammate.
Mills now anticipates Leeds’ biggest challenge being their ability to keep hold of the Brighton-owned talent beyond his loan spell, should he continue to develop in the manner he currently is.
“He’s getting better and better, he’s a superb player,” the former United defender turned pundit said.
“He’s composed on the ball, [and a] good defender. He had experience last season of playing regular football, which was vital, and I think if he keeps improving, Leeds’ biggest problem will be keeping him permanently.”
Leeds already faced a big challenge in their hopes of retaining the 21-year-old beyond his campaign on loan, as Brighton rejected an enquiry from the Whites this summer regarding a potential obligation-to-buy clause being included in the one-season agreement (Football Insider).
The clause would have seen United pay an undisclosed fee to the Amex Stadium natives next summer, however the South Coast outfit opposed the idea as the Seagulls are confident White has the raw potential to mature into a top-flight worthy defender, and not just one that thrives in the lower tiers.
This would have been a frustrating outcome for Bielsa and Whites Director of Football Victor Orta, but a lot can happen between one summer and the next, meaning their hopes of retaining the youngster are potentially not over yet.
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