Former Leeds United star Max Gradel leading Saint-Etienne to a Champions League place

Leeds United

Max-Alain Gradel scored his 12th goal of the season as Saint-Etienne won 1-0 on Sunday.

Leeds United are currently languishing in 15th place in the SkyBet Championship, 22 points off the play-off places, but a good 14 points from the relegation zone, it is as close to mid-table mediocrity as they could have imagined pre-season. Meanwhile, in France, one of their former stars continues to have one of his best ever seasons.

Max-Alain Gradel scored 25 goals in 85 games for the Yorkshire club, including 18 in just one season during the 2010-11 campaign. This season for Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne he is enjoying his best ever return with Les Verts, more than doubling his best season in front of goal since making the move from Elland Road to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in 2011.

On Sunday, Gradel was on the mark again, scoring a stunning right-foot strike, his 12th of the season, as he helped Saint-Etienne temporarily climb up to third in the league with a 1-0 win over Montpellier.

The goal came after 20 minutes when the Ivorian pounced on Benjamin Corgnet’s header to meet the ball first-time, on the half volley and ‘keeper Geoffrey Jourdren could only get a hand to it as it flew into the far corner.

Gradel had only scored four before the turn of the year, but since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations he has been in scintillating form, with Sunday’s his fourth goal in five games.

Les Verts are fourth on 60 points, with Monaco two points ahead in third. Results meant that they moved above Marseille this weekend and are in with a great chance of finishing in the Champions League play-off place, which would be an amazing return for Christophe Galtier’s side.

Leeds have often been linked with a return move for Gradel, but in his current form he will be hoping to swap the Championship for the Champions League.

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