Leeds celebrated Premier League survival, thereby avoiding enormous financial loss, by signing American international Brenden Aaronson from Red Bull Salzburg in a reported 30m deal. This ended a six month chase — Former Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa first tried to lure Aaronson to the club during the January transfer window, but Leeds’ advances were rebuffed by Salzburg. The Autrian side was already through to the UEFA Champions League knockout stage and needed Aaronson services to advance to the quarterfinals. The player expressed joy at joining Leeds, stating his preparedness to hit the ground running when the new season commences:
“It’s an amazing feeling to be here at this historic club, I am really excited for the new season. I think it was around Christmas or January that I could see there was some interest and hearing about Leeds United being interested, it was a huge moment for me and I was super excited. We’re going to have a big next season and I am really excited to be a part of it. I know the team is going to be up for it, so it is going to be an important season. I am not even thinking about my off-season, I am just excited to get back into it.”
Manager Jesse Marsch also expressed joy at the deal, giving insight into what to expect from the American international:
“Brenden is an incredibly hard worker and we’re pleased to welcome him to the club. He adapts very well to tactical ideas and levels of play and his mentality is to do whatever it takes to help the team succeed. I know he will fit in here perfectly with our players and club with this mindset.”
Nicknamed “Medford Messi”, Brenden Aaronson was born on October 20, 2000 in Medford, New Jersey, United States. He began his amateur career at Shawnee High School where he played for a year before moving to Philadelphia Union’s USC Academy where he played football and completed high school. Aaronson featured for Union’s youth team before progressing to Indiana University and signing an amateur contract with Bethlehem Steel FC. He made his first start for Steel FC in an away fixture against the Tampa Bay Rowdies that ended in a draw. The American international featured 21 times for Steel FC and scored his first goal against Atlanta United.
Aaronson joined Philadelphia Union at the beginning of the 2019 season. He scored his first professional goal on his MLS debut for Philadelphia Union in a tie against Atlanta United. Despite just being a backup playmaker, Aaronson enjoyed plenty of game time in his first season with Philadephia Union due to a combination of injuries and suspensions to those above of him in the pecking order. The playmaker finished runner-up for 2019’s MLS Rookie of the year, scoring three goals and adding two assists in over 1,640 minutes of football.
The youngster enjoyed a much more successful campaign the following season, featuring 31 times across all competitions, scoring four goals. His impressive performances catapulted him into the limelight, earning him a place in the 2020 MLS Best XI for the regular season and the MLS is Back Tournament. Philadelphia Union also won the MLS Supporters’ Shield, the club’s first-ever trophy the same year. His exploits attracted interest from abroad, Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg winning the race for his signature for a fee of around $6m.
Aaronson made his debut for RB Salzburg as a substitute in a 2-0 victory over Rheindorf Altach. He grabbed his first goal for the club on February 10, 2021, scoring the match-winner in a 3-1 victory over Austria Wein. He made 20 appearances for the club in the 2020-21 season, scoring five goals and assisting five more on the club’s way to the Austrian title.
After Marsch moced on, Aaronson was again vital in Salzburg’s 2021-22 season, making 26 appearances, scoring four alongside five assists as the club retained the league title. He was also instrumental in the Champions League where he provided the assist in the club’s unexpected 1-1 first-leg with Bayern in the round of 16. He also provided the assist for the club’s only goal in the return leg that Bayern won 7-1.
How Will Aaronson Fit in at Jesse Marsch’s Leeds?
At first glance, it might be easy to be fooled into thinking this is just about a manager wanting to work with a former player or that it’s an American manager bringing another American to the Premier League. This move is a lot more than that. As previously stated, this move has been touted for no fewer than six months, as far back as the tenure of Marcelo Bielsa.
Aaronson is a versatile attacking midfielder who can play just behind or out wide where his tireless running can be utilized to the maximum. His selflessness and trickiness were what led to comparisons to Messi’s style of play, bringing about the nickname “Medford Messi”. Aaronson is adept at last gasp runs into the box as a second striker to show up at the right place at the right time to score a goal or provide an assist.
Aaronson tenacity and electric pace put him in the top 1% of players for distance covered. He averages 27.84 pressures per ninety minutes, better than Leed’s energetic midfielder Matuesz Klich at 23.38. This makes him a perfect fit for Leeds’ pressing style of play with little room for rest.
Aaronson created 61 chances from open play in 2021, eight more than any other player in the Austrian Bundesliga. His creativity will be useful for a Leeds side that relied mostly on playmaker Raphinha to almost single-handedly create chances last season. If Raphinha’s expected departure is confirmed, Aaronson will become even more important to the team. Here is a bit of what to expect:
Forecasting fantasy prospects of a Leeds midfielder is a little dicey as no one is certain which version of Leeds we will see next season. Limited time and injuries to several players stopped Marsch from deploying his favored 4-2-2-2 formation last season, and it is unknown if he’s going to maintain Leeds current set-up or shake it up now that he has the luxury of a pre-season to pass his ideas and message across.
Rejoining his former manager Marsch at Leeds should help Aaronson quickly adapt to the new league and new team. He attributes much of his development at the business end of the pitch to his time under Marsch, and he believes there is more to learn from him:
Ten goals plus 15 assists in 51 appearances for Salzburg shows that Aaronson can be very influential at the top of the pitch. He has also scored five goals in just 15 appearances for the U.S. national team. Aaronson will most likely feature as an attacking midfielder for Leeds. That will see him jostle for playing time in the middle of the pitch with the likes of former fellow MLS player Jack Harrison, Daniel James, and attacker Rodrigo. Only Harrison and the seemingly outgoing Raphinha fared better in terms of goals and assists last season.
Uncertainties with formation, his place in the team and the needed period of adaptation means fantasy managers should monitor his progress at the beginning of the season before committing. Aaronson has shown the tendency to get better the longer he stays at a club, so giving him a bit of time at Leeds might also prove to be a masterstroke, as he has the ability to become the club’s main playmaker in the wake of a Raphinha departure.
Stats, quotes and info for this article were sourced from wikipedia.com, fantasypremierleague.com, leedsunited.com, totalfootballanalysis.com, breakingthelines.com, scoutedftbl.com, sportingnews.com, brotherlygame.com.
What do you think about Aaronson? Is he already in your fantasy plans, or will you wait to see how Leeds United’s results unfold next season? Please log in and share your thoughts in the comments below.