Just how on earth do Leeds United go about replacing Kalvin Phillips? A player who not only rose through the ranks, enjoying the most meteoric rise since Rami Malik made his silver screen debut as a supporting cast member of Night at the Museum, but also came to embody the everything good about the Marcelo Bielsa era?
Well, contrary to popular belief, perhaps they don’t have to break the bank on a £30 million successor after all.
Okay Yokuslu, who you may remember from a brief spell at West Bromwich Albion in 2020/21, almost feels like Phillips-lite. Diet Kalvin. An excellent ball-winner, yes, but an effective ball-player too.
Even as West Brom dropped out of the top flight – the blaze proving too fearsome for even Fireman Sam Allardyce – Yokuslu averaged a highly impressive 2.4 tackles and 2.2 interceptions per game (WhoScored). Numbers broadly similar to the ones Phillips produced even during Leeds’ most heady of days under Bielsa.
And while the Turkey international might lack Phillips’ extensive passing range, that’s not to say he cannot distribute the ball neatly and intelligently. Allardyce even compared Yokuslu to a pair of former Real Madrid greats, both of whom he worked with at Bolton Wanderers. Yes, the early 2000s were heady days at the then-Reebok Arena.
“I can’t put him in the category of Fernando Hierro or Ivan Campo, but he’s not far off,” Allardyce told the Express and Star.
“They were Real Madrid greats. But he’s certainly got a very good passing range like those two boys had. If I’m talking about him in the same light as them, it’s a big compliment for him.”
His all-round skill set was on show as Turkey beat the Netherlands 4-3 during a thrilling clash back in 2021. And if Yokuslu can dominate Frenkie de Jong, surely the 28-year-old has something to offer Leeds United?
Kalvin Phillips out, Okay Yoksulu in at Leeds United?
Spanish publication El Desmarque reported in June of last year that Leeds had been impressed by Yokuslu’s performances at the Hawthorns. It is not certain whether or not that interest lives on. But the news that Yokuslu has been released by Celta Vigo should give Victor Orta, Jesse Marsch and co plenty of food for thought.
“Okay Yokuslu will not continue at Celta,” reads a statement on behalf of the La Liga outfit. “The club and player reached an agreement for the departure of the Turkish footballer, who no longer belongs to the Sky Blues.”
Leeds certainly won’t be short of cash this summer. The departures of Phillips and Raphinha should give Marsch and Orta nearly £100 million to play with in the market. But that does not mean the Yorkshire giants should forget the importance of good value.
And Yokuslu, now available for free, is certainly that.