Speculation was rife this January around Leeds bringing in new attacking options to replace Eddie Nketiah and strengthen their firepower given Patrick Bamfords drought. The club were linked with Southampton’s Che Adams, Watford’s Andre Gray, Sheffield United’s Billy Sharpe and rather disturbingly Middleborough’s Britt Assombalonga. But with Leeds struggling to get deals for Premier League strikers over the line Victor Orta turned his attention overseas and pulled one out of the bad with the signing of Jean-Kevin Augustin
. The French striker joined Leeds from Bundesliga outfit Red Bull Leipzig on an initial loan deal until the end of the season with the club holding an option to sign him on a permanent basis.
Whilst ‘Big Kev’ arrived raring to go we know Bielsa likes to take time introducing new players to the squad and it was no different with Leeds United’s new, potentially most expensive player since Rio Ferdinand. A lack of first team action on loan at AS Monaco meant Augustin didn’t arrive in the greatest shape and Bielsa likes players to be up to speed with his system and methods before they get their first team chance. Back in January Bielsa said; “He played a few days ago. It's a player that is well trained. He has good natural physical condition. But when you have to adapt to one thing, it is more than that. It depends on many factors.”
Augustin had his first experience of Elland Road
, if only from the stands, under the lights against Millwall, a baptism of fire you could say. His debut would come two games later as 71st minute substitute against Nottingham Forest on the 8th February. After three substitute appearances, Augustin suffered a muscular injury in late February which has ruled him out for the remaining games before lockdown set in. Despite his limited game time Augustin showed moments of promise; good movement, a willingness to shoot early, a turn of pace and power which could see him be an extremely useful addition to Marcelo Bielsa’s squad.
For a player who arrived with rumours of ‘attitude problems’, Augustin seems to have knuckled down under lockdown. His training videos
show some serious work being put in and some serious pounds being shed. It would have been easy for him to have sat back and relaxed but he seems to have bought into the project and bought into Bielsa’s methods, keen to prove he can make a contribution to Leeds United whenever the season may start again. It’s amazing the dedication that Bielsa seems to instil in players, even those who are relatively new to the club!
But with the season suspended and the very real possibility it will never resume what does the future hold for Jean-Kevin Augustin? His dedication through lockdown has been admirable but the limited number of first team minutes for Leeds has not been enough to judge a player who could cost Leeds United £15 million this summer should they exercise their option to make the signing permanent. Has Marcelo Bielsa seen enough of Augustin on the training pith to believe he has what it takes, to know that he will fit into the system and do the work he demands of his stiker?
If the season does not get back underway should Leeds take the £15m gamble to sign a player who has had limited opportunities to show what he can do over the past 12 months? Or given Big Kev’s dedication during lockdown and the undoubted potential he has could £15m be the absolute steal of the season?