Ex-Everton and Man City manager Joe Royle is convinced Leeds United sensation Joe Gelhardt can be a bona fide Premier League star, Football Insider can reveal.
The forward, 18, is still waiting for his Leeds debut but has made a big impression for the Under-23s since signing from Wigan Athletic last summer.
A source with knowledge of Gelhardt’s situation has told Football Insider how Royle has been hugely impressed by the youngster’s development this season.
The 71-year-old sage of north-west football knows Gelhardt well as he was a director of Wigan for three years until the club went into administration last July.
During his mid-teens, Royle was already comparing the Leeds talent to a young Wayne Rooney in terms of his physique and playing style.
It was a theme picked up by United main man Patrick Bamford, who recently highlighted how the club’s senior stars have been struck by the ability of the broad-shouldered forward.
Royle has been privately raving about Gelhardt for years and was key to him choosing Leeds last summer.
The former striker felt the youngster’s development would be best served by learning his trade under Marcelo Bielsa and his coaching staff.
Gelhardt was prised from Wigan after their cash crisis following administration forced a fire sale.
Leeds snapped up the teenager for a fee of £700,000 rising to £1million-plus as they saw off competition from elite clubs including Everton, Celtic and Rangers.
Words like “phenomenal” and “electrifying” are being regularly used to describe him behind the scenes.
He has yet to make his first-team bow but has made a big impression in Under-23s matches as well as in senior training.
The youngster has made 13 Premier League 2 appearances, scoring seven goals and supplying two assists.
Gelhardt had previously been valued by Wigan at the £5m mark after graduating from their youth ranks to make 21 first-team appearances before his exit.
He has been on the bench for the last five Premier League matches but is behind the likes of Bamford, Raphinha, Rodrigo, Pablo Hernandez, Helder Costa, Jack Harrison and Tyler Roberts for the attacking spots at United.