The rise of Wilfried Gnonto: why Leeds missing out on Cody Gakpo was a blessing in disguise
Around Elland Road there is talk of a teenage talent not seen in the LS11 postcode since Harry Kewell emerged from the club’s Academy in the 1990s. The excitement has led to an X-rated chant which refers to Gnonto’s manhood, which Marsch has asked fans to modify. But there is clear excitement about the talent they have on their hands.
“We knew about him for a while and like I said he was a little bit more of an idea to bring him in the future,” said Marsch. “But given where we were on the transfer deadline day I think, because we knew him and we thought ‘okay, maybe we bring them in six months earlier and we start the process a little bit earlier.’ We've done that.
“He is a very intelligent, humble, grounded, real human being who wants to improve, wants to work hard, and believes in the process that we've created for him and for the group.”
Gnonto’s perfectly weighted pass set up Crysencio Summerville’s winner against Bournemouth when Leeds last won in the Premier League. That goal has helped keep Leeds afloat but they are desperately in need of a win now heading into this weekend’s game against Brentford.
Their young Italian striker could have a big say in their survival, along with Marsch’s other young forwards which now includes club record signing Georginio Rutter.
“So I said from the beginning that Willy had a real positive impact on Crysencio Summerville, they have a really good relationship and it's funny, Luis [Sinisterra] went down and it opened up a chance the door for Cree a little bit and then Cree has gone down and it's opened up the door for Willy a little bit,” added Marsch.
“Now if we can get all these weapons back and we can really start to go at teams and make subs and throw more weapons on the pitch, then we can start to have a strategy to be pretty explosive.”
Even for Italy, Gnonto has been seen as one for the future, with Roberto Mancini blooding him with Euro 2024 in mind after failing to reach the World Cup. But his time has arrived now in Leeds, with his fearlessness and power now a key part of their season.