Leeds teenager Archie Gray is a Liverpool target - but is he really worth £40m?
Liverpool are rumoured to be interested in Leeds starlet Archie Gray - but does he live up to the hype?
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How much would you pay for a talented teenager part of the way through his first season of senior football? If you're Liverpool, the answer could be as much as £40m, at least if rumours concerning their interest in Leeds United youngster Archie Gray are true.
At just 17 years of age, Gray has swiftly established himself in the Leeds first team under Daniel Farke, playing as both as defensive midfielder and as a right-back - and his versatility, vision and technical skill has drawn comparison with Trent Alexander-Arnold. All of that may be a little premature, but Leeds clearly think he can go a very long way indeed, and apparently Liverpool agree.
Gray burst onto the Premier League 2 scene last season with a stunning 30-yard strike against Manchester United's reserve team, which made him the youngest goalscorer in the history of the competition, just three days after his 16th birthday. Not long after, his assist in an EFL Trophy game against Tranmere Rovers made him the youngest player to set up a goal in that competition too, and he's now a member of the England Under-19 squad. There's no question that he's done a lot in a short space of time.
Gray started out as a number ten, with his sharp passing and creative instincts to the fore, before moving to a more defensive role, essentially mimicking the way Kalvin Phillips operated in the Leeds midfield, looking to win turnovers in the defensive third before quickly getting the ball forward. Now he's playing as a right-sided wing-back, using his pace, ball-carrying skills and eye for a direct pass in yet another position. That he's been able to play such a broad range of roles at such a young age is a testament to his exceptionally well-rounded skillset.
While he's got fantastic technical attributes, the main thing that stands out from watching him is his intelligence and ability to read the game. His work off the ball is exceptional and he shows great awareness of the game around him, quickly moving into open spaces and always seeming to know where the next man is to pick a pass in a tight corner. He's fantastic at both providing an option for his team-mates and spotting where to play the ball next.
He's also a very fine defensive player who averages more than 2.5 successful tackles per game, showing decent judgement in when to go for the tackle and when to stand off - and while he's only got a slight frame and has very little weight to him, he refuses to allow himself to be bullied in one-on-one situations.
In truth, there are few weaknesses to his game, but naturally he has a lot of development still to do, especially with regards to his final ball. He still hasn't scored or assisted for the senior side and doesn't create many shooting chances for his team yet, and while his understanding of space is superb, he still needs to learn how to unlock defences to live up to those Alexander-Arnold comparisons. A little bit of time in the weights room wouldn't kill him, either...
So is he worth £40m? Heaven knows - this is an age when enormous sums are splashed on teenagers, it's simply that we're more accustomed to them being from Brazil, like Endrick of Vinícius Junior, rather than from Leeds. It would certainly require a huge investment to get a hold of him, because Leeds don't seem keen to sell.
Former Director of Football Victor Orta mentioned Gray in an interview last season which made the club's esteem for him clear: "Hopefully nobody takes him away from us. Nobody is going to do that, he has [Leeds] in his blood. So that’s why I want to say the name of Archie Gray on here because every time he takes a step forward you’ll see him. He’s one of those players... that happens once in a long time."
And he wasn't exaggerating when he said that Gray had Leeds in his blood - he's the son of former Leeds and Scotland striker Andy Gray (not the pundit...) and the great-nephew of one of the Whites' greatest every players, Eddie Gray. His younger brother is in the club's academy, too. This is a family affair for him.
Leeds are believed to be trying to open negotiations to extend Gray's contract, which currently runs until 2025. That means that in many ways, Gray holds the power - either he commits to Leeds for the next phase of his development, or he holds out and forces a move to a bigger club. Whatever comes next, he looks set to be playing at the very top level before long, and maybe £40m won't sound like so much in the not-so-distant future...
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