Leeds can send Gnonto packing by signing “electric” target who’s like Bale

Amid something of a mass exodus at Leeds United over the summer, one man whom the Yorkshire side ultimately held on to tightly was promising youngster, Wilfried Gnonto, with the Italy international saying put despite itching to leave Elland Road.

With the likes of Brenden Aaronson, Jack Harrison and Marc Roca allowed to move on elsewhere following their relegation to the Championship, Gnonto had initially looked to set to join those raft of departures, even handing in a transfer request amid interest from Everton.

As it proved, the former Zurich gem – who arrived at the club on a £3.8m deal in the summer of 2022 – was not granted his wish, having since gone on to endure a difficult season under new boss Daniel Farke, despite the drop into the second tier.

While both Daniel James and Crysencio Summerville – who have scored 21 Championship goals in 2023/24 – have thrived in the lower division, Gnonto, meanwhile, has registered just one assist and a solitary goal in all competitions thus far.

After previously shining in the top-flight last term – scoring four goals – the 20-year-old has not kicked on as was expected this time around, with an exit now looking like a very real possibility for the diminutive speedster this month.


Amid reports that the one-time Inter Milan man could be set to join West Ham United before the January window closes, Leeds could well have their eye on a perfect replacement to help send Gnonto packing.

Leeds eyeing Gnonto replacement

As per The Athletic, the priority for Farke this month is to strengthen at full-back, with the German tactician having allowed both Luke Ayling and Djed Spence to depart of late, while competition could also be needed on the opposite side with both Sam Byram and Junior Firpo routinely dogged by injury.

If Gnonto is to depart as expected, however, a fresh face could also well be needed to bolster the frontline, with Belgian journalist Sacha Tavolieri reporting earlier this week that the promotion hopefuls have their eye on Burnley’s, Manuel Bernson.

According to the transfer insider, the 26-year-old is the “priority target” to replace Gnonto, with the latter man seemingly set to seal a move to the London Stadium – in the view of Tavolieri.

While Benson has made just four Premier League appearances so far this term at Turf Moor, his heroics in the Championship last season – and his likeness to a certain Gareth Bale – should ensure that he is the perfect option to make Leeds forget all about their Italian dynamo.

Manuel Benson’s style of play is similar to Bale

The former Antwerp man played an integral role in steering Vincent Kompany’s side to promotion from the Championship in 2022/23, scoring 12 goals and contributing three assists in 33 league games.

While an influx of new additions and a step up in division has left Benson playing second fiddle this time around for the Lancashire side, Burnley’s trash could well prove to be Leeds’ treasure, with the Belgian a devastating asset when at his best.


That is the view of his agent, Patrick de Koster, at least, who previously laid out the winger’s attributes, before even going as far as to liken his client to former Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid sensation, Bale:

“He is a very, very technical attacking player, a left-footed winger, great on the ball and at his best when deployed on the wing. (Like) Gareth Bale. Rapid, fast, great acceleration and an eye for goal.

“Obviously I’m not comparing the two, I’m just saying Manuel has a playing style reminiscent of that of the Real Madrid player.”

Like Benson, the now-retired Welshman also had a wand of a left foot and could thrive on either flank or in a more central role if required, notably racking 185 goals and 137 goals in 553 games in a stellar career at the elite level.

As De Koster noted, the Clarets ace is not expected to hit such heights, yet the combination of his speed and goalscoring ability certainly does offer a clear similarity to Bale – having also even been compared to Dutch icon Arjen Robben by teammate Nathan Tella.

Such plaudits for the “electric” talent – as described by pundit Sam Parkin – certainly bode well as far as Leeds are concerned, with the likes of James and Summerville set to be nervously looking over their shoulder if a deal is to be wrapped up this month.

How Manuel Benson compares to Gnonto

With both Benson and Gnonto having been cast aside, in truth, for their respective clubs this season, it is worth taking a look at how they performed across the entirety of last season.

Although competing in different divisions, Benson’s 19 goal involvements in all competitions was far beyond what the current Leeds man achieved in his debut season at the club, with Gnonto recording just eight goals and assists for the Yorkshire side across all fronts.


Farke could land his own Raphinha in Leeds swoop for £28k-p/w magician

The Whites are reportedly interested in a deal to snap up the talented youngster.

The pair were notably alike in a creative sense, with Benson registering three assists in the Championship while creating four ‘big chances’, with Gnonto creating three ‘big chances’, while registering four assists.

A notable benefit of the fleet-footed Belgian is his dribbling prowess, having averaged 1.1 successful dribbles per game in 2022/23, while the Leeds man averaged just 0.9 in that regard at Elland Road.

Manuel Benson’s career record





Lierse SK












Royal Excel Mouscron








PEC Zwolle




Stats via Transfermarkt

The differences between the pair, as shown above, are rather slight, ensuring that if Leeds are to cash in on the 5 foot 7 dynamo, they could instantly replace him with someone of similar ilk – with Benson also boasting the additional benefit of having already flourished in the second tier to help guide a club to promotion.

As such, with Gnonto hardly pulling up any trees this season, despite his obvious promise, Farke could happily nudge him toward the exit door this month, particularly if he can prise a dream replacement from Turf Moor.

Leave a Comment