Leeds set to win race for Mateo Joseph Fernandez as striker undergoes Thorp Arch medical

Leeds United are set to win the race for Espanyol forward Mateo Joseph Fernandez.

Without even playing a minute of senior football, Fernandez had the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Barcelona monitoring him but it is in fact the Yorkshire club that seem to have won the race.

The Whites are reportedly in the final stages of confirming the deal, with the 18-year-old undergoing a medical at Thorp Arch today, according to Sky Sports.

Spanish journalist Diego Balbontin, who has been on top of the case since October, when Fernandez was initially linked with Leeds, has reported that the deal will see the Spaniard sign a four-year contract.

His current deal with Espanyol expires in the summer and it was made clear that he wouldn’t be signing new terms with bigger opportunities available elsewhere.

Espanyol’s city rivals Barcelona have been long term admirers and have made approaches in the two previous summer windows but refused to meet Espanyol’s financial demands and they are now left to regret those missed opportunities with Fernandez now on his way to the Premier League.

What are Leeds United getting in Fernandez?

Some reports have likened him to Sergio Aguero due to his physical strength and ruthlessness in front of goal. He has come through the ranks at Espanyol, first catching the eye in in the 2016/17 campaign in which he scored 40 goals.

Fernandez then scored 15 in 13 for Espanyol Cadete in the 18-19 campaign before making another step up within the club, to Espanyol B Juvenil, for the 2019-20 season in which he scored 15 goals in 22 games.

Finally, last season, Fernandez netted 14 in 21 games for Espanyol B, including a hat-trick against Barcelona’s academy.

Had he not refused to sign a new deal, it is expected that Fernandez would have been involved in La Liga by now, but Espanyol froze him out.

“This outcome is, of course, not the one desired by the club. In him there is regret for the departure of the player, which will happen sooner or later.

“He was considered a player with great potential and if he had agreed to renew he would have been part of the first team’s preseason under Vicente Moreno,” Grada3 reporter Javier Rodriguez Alonso wrote in October.

Fernandez will initially link up with Mark Jackson’s Leeds United U23 team following the move and will act almost as a direct replacement for Joe Gelhardt.

Gelhardt started the season in the U23s and has seven goals in nine games at PL2 level this season but is now making waves in the first team.

Whilst he is not yet a guaranteed starter in the Premier League, his presence is certainly becoming more frequent which suggests U23 appearances will be limited in the second half of the season.

In just six substitute appearances and one start in the Premier League, Gelhardt has scored one, assisted one and won two penalties.

As well losing Gelhardt to the first team, Jackson could also be without his joint-top scorer Sam Greenwood (also on seven, tied with Gelhardt) for the second half of the season as rumours linking him with a loan move have intensified over the last couple of weeks.

Swansea are long-term admirers of the England youth international, they tried to land a loan deal for him in the summer and are set to return with another bid in January. Nottingham Forest are also reportedly keeping a close eye on the former Arsenal man.

A loan is probably needed for Greenwood who needs to experience regular senior football to take his development to the next level, but Leeds also need to avoid relegation from PL2 Division One.

If they feel Fernandez can come in to replace Greenwood’s goals, it could give the green light for the former Arsenal man to depart on loan.

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