By Alex Stevens
Leeds could have a major transfer problem with Ronaldo Vieira as he continues to catch the eye of the leading clubs.
That is the verdict of former Elland Road striker Andy Ritchie as he assessed the team’s stunning transformation under Garry Monk in recent months.
Leeds’ landmark win against fellow promotion hopefuls Derby eight days ago continued the momentum that Ritchie believes makes them genuine contenders for an automatic promotion spot.
Brighton’s win over Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night reinstated them in top spot ahead of second-placed Newcastle, who are seven points clear of Leeds.
It is a significant bridge to gap but Ritchie has been enormously impressed by the progress made by Leeds as well as a number of their players.
Derby manager Steve McClaren tipped wonderkid Vieira for big things after his superb performance last week provided further evidence of his amazing rise this season with a dominant central midfield display alongside skipper Liam Bridcutt.
“Everyone was rightly marvelling about the performance of Ronaldo Vieira in Leeds’ televised game with Derby County and the biggest compliment I could say is that it is difficult to believe that he is so young,” wrote Ritchie in his weekly Yorkshire Evening Post column.
“I do think that Leeds might have a bit of a problem keeping hold of him if he keeps on going. He is so young at 18 and still learning the game and there will be people watching him, no doubt about it. I think that is also the case with one or two others too.”
Elland Road academy graduate Vieira was handed his Leeds debut by ex-manager Steve Evans at the end of last season but it is under the guidance of Monk and his coaching staff that he has developed into one of the outstanding young players in the Championship.
The teenager has made 22 appearances in all competitions, with his personal highlights including the winning penalty against Norwich in the League Cup and a last-minute winner against Alex Neil’s side in a memorable 3-2 league win at Carrow Road.
It is a sign of the trust that Monk has in Vieira that he has started 12 of the team’s 26 Championship matches, and has been a key figure for the third-placed side in the division.
In other Leeds news, the club have slapped a mega price tag on this first team star after Premier League giants expressed an interest in signing him this month.