Kalvin Phillips might be the key player for Leeds United in holding midfield now but back in the summer of 2018, it looked like Ronaldo Vieira was primed for the role.
Considered by outsiders as a perfect Marcelo Bielsa player, the fact Phillips was playing at centre-back in pre-season against Forest Green Rovers suggested to some that Bielsa either had a positional change in mind or that Phillips could be cast aside.
In fact, it was completely the opposite. Phillips was being groomed to become the lynchpin of this Leeds side and with the Whites needing to make sales to adhere to financial fair play measures, Vieira was sacrificed.
The England under-21 international ended up joining Sampdoria in a shock move worth around £7.7 million (BBC). It was a deal Leeds felt compelled to make. Even chairman Andrea Radrizzani was disappointed, telling the BBC that Bielsa was ‘not happy’ about losing ‘a great player’.
“The sacrifice was very hard for me to do because he’s a great player,” the Italian stated. “He was one of (the) best players to come from our youth but I cannot put the club in danger in the future.
“We thought it would be a sacrifice we could take, and still maintain the team and invest where we need more.”
Since then, it has been a tough grind for Vieira in Italy. The 22-year-old struggled for regular first-team football in his debut season at the club but was a regular in the last campaign. But after slipping back down the pecking order at the start of this season, Vieira was sent out on loan to Hellas Verona for the season.
Leeds United fans retain a soft spot for Vieira however and that feeling is mutual. Vieira even came back to watch his old club in action on one occasion.
So fans in West Yorkshire will be glad to hear that Vieira has just hit a landmark in his Italian adventure, finally scoring his first goal since leaving Leeds United in July 2018.
Vieira scored a crucial 110th-minute equaliser in extra-time of Verona’s Coppa Italia clash with Venezia last night.
The midfielder bundled home a poor clearance from a free-kick with a sharp left-foot finish to get off the mark in Italian football after 27 months. Verona then went on to win the penalty shoot-out.
Of course, Vieira is not expected to be scoring goals. He managed just two with Leeds in 71 appearances but it is still great to see he played such a pivotal role in a crucial win for his new club.
Leeds fans will just hope he continues to thrive at his new club.