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Noel Whelan comments on reports that Leeds star could be swayed by Roberto Martinez

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Leeds United

Noel Whelan comments on reports that Leeds star could be swayed by Roberto Martinez

Noel Whelan has responded to reports that Belgium and Roberto Martinez are looking to convince Leeds United defender Pasca Struijk to choose them as his national team – despite earning caps for Netherlands’ Under-17 side.

Struijk, 21, clocked up his 20th appearance in all competitions for Leeds on Monday night – combining with Liam Cooper to secure the club’s first clean sheet of 2021 with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. Jack Harrison and Patrick Bamford scored.

With Diego Llorente and Robin Koch injured, Struijk has taken advantage and while Marcelo Bielsa would prefer a right-footed centre-back alongside left-footed Cooper or Struijk, the duo have combined with aplomb in recent matches.


Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf has reported that a tug-of-war is beginning to emerge between Belgium and The Netherlands for Struijk. He was born in Belgium but played for Holland at youth level. It is claimed a phone call has been made by Martinez.

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Whelan gave his verdict on BBC Radio Leeds: “Someone has seen something in the kid and it is a manager that has been around for quite a long time, in Roberto Martinez – he knows what he is doing. He’s obviously seen a real talent in him.

“Credit goes to the club to get him to this stage. But hey, let’s not take anything away from him – he’s on the verge of playing for the number one team in the world in Belgium. We should be happy, we have another international centre-half.”

TBR’s view – Struijk is better off choosing Belgium

Looking at the options for both countries, Belgium and Martinez is the better option for ex-Ajax man Struijk. The Netherlands have Manchester City’s Nathan Ake as a first-choice, left-footed centre-back – alongside Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk.

Ake is a top, top player and van Dijk is one of the best in the world. There is little chance of breaking into that. But at Belgium, they need a new up-and-coming left-footed centre-back. Jan Vertonghen turns 34 in April.

Thomas Vermaelen, meanwhile, is now 35 and playing in Japan. Martinez needs a left-footed centre-back for the long-term, and Struijk is perfect for him.

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