On July 6th, Leeds announced the signing of Junior Firpo from Barcelona in a deal worth an initial £13m plus 20% of any future sale. The fullback agreed to a four-year contract and is expected to compete for the left-back position.
Firpo was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. At age six he moved to Benalmedena, Malaga where he started playing organized football. In his early years, he moved around amateur clubs such as Athletico Benamiel, Puerto Malagueno and Tiro Pichon. He finally settled northwest of his Spanish hometown in Seville, in the academy of Real Betis.
At age 18, Firpo ability began to turn head at Betis Academy, quickly securing promotion to the B-team ahead of the 2015-16 season. He was an integral member of the squad that got relegated that season. The full-back grabbed his first senior goal on the 1st of August 2017 in a 4-nil win against Algeciras.
Firpo became the first Dominican Republic born player to play in La Liga when he made his senior Real Betis debut on the 12th of February 2018 in a loss against Deportivo La Coruna at the age of 21. He went on to score his first professional goal in a 3-nil victory against Espanyol on the 17th of March 2018.
Firpo went into the following season as Real Betis’ starting left-back, but an unfortunate injury derailed what had begun as a promising campaign. Despite Firpo’s injury, Barcelona had seen enough to take him off the hands of Real Betis.
On 4th of August 2019, Barcelona signed Firpo for $18m plus $12m in add-ons. He was signed to provide competition for Jordi Alba in the left-back position. Firpo made his Barcelona debut as an 81st minute substitute against his former club Real Betis, a match that Barcelona won 5-2. Firpo was unable to displace Alba as Barcelona’s starting left-back, leaving him to play a bit-part role all through his time at the club.
Firpo had to patiently wait for opportunities to impress, and whenever he got the opportunity to do so, he failed to hit the mark. He also had to deal with constant niggles, which meant he was unable to build any momentum. By the end of the 2020-21 season at Barcelona, Firpo had made just 41 appearances, scoring two goals and adding three assists. Not very impressive numbers, but it was still enough for Marcelo Bielsa to want him at Leeds.
How Will Firpo Fit In At Leeds?
Firpo is a perfect fit for Marcelo Bielsa’s famous ‘murderball’ philosophy; the fullback attacks the wing well, and he can drift past people. Firpo has lightning speed and an attacking mentality, which is perfect for Bielsa’s style of play. He might be a little bit less assured in the defensive aspect of his game due to the occasional momentary lapse of concentration and indiscipline.
Bielsa flirted with both a flat back four and a back three plus two wing-backs last season. Depending on the formation and opponent, Stuart Dallas’ versatility was put to good use as a midfielder, left wing-back, left-back and sometimes right-back last season. Ezgian Alioski also enjoyed a lot of playing time as a left-back or left wing-back due to Dallas having to fill other spaces in the team.
Firpo will be in direct competition with Dallas and Alioski for a spot in Bielsa’s starting lineup. But his meager goal plus an assist throughout the whole of last season doesn’t make for good reading compared to those two. Dallas with two goals plus eight assists was a fantasy favorite, and Alioski contributed two goals plus three assists. Both were clearly more productive than Firpo, albeit with more playing time.
In FPL, Firpo is priced £5m, which is reasonable considering his status and role he will be playing at Leeds. His excellent crosses and cut backs should be put to good use by the highly impressive Bamford who rested all summer while other Englishmen played in the Euros.
Nonetheless it might be wise to delay signing Firpo; he is new to the EPL and has no experience with the “Murderball” play style that Bielsa favors. The manager is also known for sticking faithfully to one particular starting eleven for majority of the season. Therefore, it might be ideal to wait for a few weeks to confirm Bielsa’s favored lineup before committing.
Unsurprisingly, Firpo wears the default $7.00 new-boy price tag in Fantrax. Just like for FPL, defer investment until we know whether he can make the adjustment to the Prem and seal a regular spot in Bielsa’s S-11.
Do you have an opinion on Firpo’s abilities? Have any questions about his prospects? Any news? Please share in the comments below.