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20th Dec, 2016 | 9:14am

Monk must fend off Bundesliga giants: This Leeds ace is 2016 young player of the year

COMMENT By Will Butcher

Football Insider names the Leeds young player of the year for 2016.

Ronaldo Vieira earns the young player of the year award after becoming a central figure of Garry Monk’s side during the 2016-17 campaign.

With former boss Steve Evans preferring to give experienced, trusted talent a starting berth last season, Vieira and his young teammates found it difficult to have an impact at Elland Road during the 2015-16 campaign.

But since making his debut as a last-minute substitute in the final game of the season during a 1-1 draw against Preston, the 18-year-old has gone from strength to strength.

Now a key player for the Yorkshire giants, the former Benfica youth player is regarded as one of Leeds’ four first-team central midfielders along with captain Liam Bridcutt, Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips.

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His combative displays at the base of the Leeds midfield have been pivotal this season, as he added a defensive blanket from the middle of the pitch while Bridcutt was sidelined with a broken foot.

Showing maturity way beyond his years, Vieira is now reportedly interesting top-flight clubs after starring in the Leeds side.

According to HITC Sport, ambitious Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig are keeping tabs on Leeds’ number 25 but Monk must do whatever he can to keep Vieira and build the side around him.

Vieira proved that he is progressing under former Swansea boss Monk, after a disappointing start against QPR in the first game of the season.

The teenager gave away a needless penalty during the 3-0 loss, but has begun to show an improvement with a top performance during the 2-0 loss against Brighton.

His best moment of the season came in November, as his blistering long-range strike flew past John Ruddy in the dying moments at Carrow Road to earn Leeds a 3-2 win.

Bags of potential and plenty of promise, Vieira must be kept at Elland Road before bigger clubs begin to catch wind of his stunning progression.

In other Leeds news, Danny Mills has made this claim about Monk.