Diego Llorente’s injury absence may have actually given Leeds United a boost this season, according to Alex McLeish.
The former Scotland manager, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, suggested the 27-year-old had returned “stronger than ever” after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
The Spain international has started Leeds’ last eight Premier League games and scored his first goal in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool.
Football Insider revealed last week that Bielsa sees Llorente as his number one centre-back and plans to build his defence around him.
However, the defender had managed to play just twice before February as a result of injury problems.
He did not make his Leeds debut until December after picking up a groin injury on international duty.
The centre-back then had to wait until late January to play again after suffering a similar problem.
However, a hamstring injury kept him out for just short of a month before he started against Southampton.
McLeish insisted Llorente’s “potential” was clear to see.
However, he surprisingly suggested the lengthy layoff could help Leeds in the long run.
“Obviously the potential was there,” McLeish told Football Insider’s Russell Edge.
“Marcelo Bielsa recognised that big time. Maybe the way the season has worked out for him is the best way for it to happen. Sometimes you think these things are meant to be.
“He’s had the injury, he’s sat out and maybe he’s thinking about things a little bit more.
“He’s come back looking even stronger than ever. Leeds were actually on a really good run of possession and pressing when he scored. They really were snuffing out Liverpool’s attacks pretty easily.
“Then when they got that corner… You know when you’re sitting, watching a game and you get that wee feeling they’re going to get a goal from this? Llorente’s header was magnificent.”