Leeds United signed two wingers on loan on transfer deadline day in January. And while Mo Barrow’s temporary move from Swansea City was as forgettable as forgettable can be, you get the feeling Leeds did not see the best of Alfonso Pedraza either.
A Spanish Under-21 international, Pedraza arrived at Elland Road from Villarreal with a reputation for being a direct, pacy and exciting winger. And while the 21-year-old got supporters off their seats on an intermittent basis, he never quite nailed down a place at Leeds.
According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Gary Monk’s side had the option of signing Pedraza permanently for £8.5 million if they won promotion. That would have made him their biggest signing since Robbie Fowler in 2001.
However, after missing out on the play-offs following a late-season slump, Pedraza returned to Spain. And although he enjoyed a few bright moments in West Yorkshire, a tally of one goal and no assists from 14 games meant few supporters would have expected the Spaniard to be given the chance in Spain’s top flight this season – let alone in an entirely new position.
Since joining last season’s surprise packages Deportivo Alaves on a season-long loan, however, Pedraza has been converted from a flying winger into an orthodox left-back. And though the Basque side have lost all four of their La Liga games so far, manager Luis Zubeldia paying with his job, Pedraza has been one of the best of an underperforming bunch.
His flying performance in last month’s 2-0 defeat to Barcelona demonstrated the qualities that could make Pedraza a real threat from full-back in the months to come - a real directness, power on the overlap and a decent cross.
And it’s a credit to his performances that Theo Hernandez, last season’s loan star who swapped Atletico for city rivals Real thanks to a £22.8 million buyout clause this summer (BBC), is not being missed quite so dramatically.