Wednesday, July 14, 2021

YEP 13/7/21 The three goalkeepers on Victor Orta's Leeds United goalkeeper shortlist - La Liga stopper, Vålerenga youngster and Newcastle United's Freddie Woodman

Leeds United have made approaches for a trio of goalkeepers this summer in their search for a Kiko Casilla replacement.

By Graham Smyth

Victor Orta hopes to be able to conclude a deal quickly for a player who can compete with and provide back up to Marcelo Bielsa's first choice stopper Illan Meslier, after Casilla secured a season-long loan move to Elche CF in La Liga. His time at Leeds appears to be over, although there are two years remaining on his contract.

The director of football's search for a replacement was narrowed to three candidates, all of whom have senior league experience, namely Dani Cárdenas, Kristoffer Klaesson and Freddie Woodman.

Cárdenas, 24, plays for Levante UD in La Liga and last season made eight top flight appearances and played five times en route to the Copa Del Rey semi-final.

He joined Levante in 2014, having spent time with his hometown club Barcelona and RCD Espanyol, and made his first team debut in November last year although spent the majority of the campaign as back up to the more experienced Aitor Fernández.

His contract is due to expire next summer.

Klaesson, 20, is a player Leeds first made enquiries about in 2019. Despite the Norwegian's tender years he has racked up 54 top flight appearances with Eliteserien outfit Vålerenga, who sit third after 13 games of their 2021 campaign, which traditionally runs from March to November but started in May this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

He has played every minute in the league this season and missed a single game in 2020 due to suspension. His contract runs until December 2022.

In 2020 Vålerenga sporting director Jørgen Ingebrigtsen confirmed to Oslo daily newspaper Dagsavisen that Leeds were keen on the youngster.

“Leeds made a specific inquiry about what our plans were with Kristoffer," he said.

"The first conversations with them were in autumn last year. We said what you see now, that this is a player we didn’t want to sell. We had faith that he could become the first [choice] keeper at Vålerenga fairly quickly, and he is at the moment. They had a sense of understanding. The talks with them were very good.”

Newcastle's Woodman, meanwhile, was first linked with the club in 2018 and popped up on the radar again this summer. The 24-year-old arrived at St James' Park in 2013 but the vast majority of his experience has come in loan spells, with Aberdeen, Crawley Town, Kilmarnock and Swansea City, with whom he has spent the last two seasons as their number one.

The 2020/21 Championship season saw Woodman and the Swans reach the play-off final, before defeat to Brentford at Wembley Stadium.

Woodman, who represented England at Under 21 level, featured twice against the Whites in the 2019/20 second tier campaign, keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 win at Elland Road and losing 1-0 at home in a game that all-but sealed Leeds' promotion to the Premier League. He is contracted to 2023 and has been linked with both a return to Swansea and a move to Arsenal this summer.

With Meslier in place alongside both 18-year-old prospect Dani van den Heuvel and Elia Caprile, who turns 20 next month, there is no immediate urgency when it comes to the addition of a keeper but Leeds would like to tie up a deal in time for the start of their pre-season fixtures.