Leeds United are on course to challenge for automatic promotion from the Championship as they currently sit third in the table after 17 matches.
The Whites were held to a 1-1 draw away at Rotherham last Friday in a frustrating game across Yorkshire but they gained ground on Ipswich Town in second after they were beaten 2-0 by West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
German tactician Daniel Farke was brought in over the summer to help the club to make an instant return to the Premier League after their relegation at the end of last season.
The head coach won two Championship titles during his time with Norwich City and the board decided to back him with nine new signings to bolster the squad.
Jaidon Anthony, Ilia Gruev, Sam Byram, Ethan Ampadu, Karl Darlow, Joel Piroe, Glen Kamara, Djed Spence, and Joe Rodon were all snapped up.
Byram, in particular, has been an impressive addition as the free agent right-back has become a regular in the side at left-back with his superb defensive displays.
However, he recently turned 30 and Leeds may have one eye on bringing in a long-term heir for him and the versatility that he is able to provide.
As such, the Whites have been linked with an interest in a talented young number two ahead of the January transfer window in Sam Curtis.
Leeds transfer news – Sam Curtis
It was recently reported by 90min that the Yorkshire-based outfit are one of a host of clubs keen on a deal to sign the Irish right-back at the start of next year.
The St Patrick’s Athletic defender has caught the eye of several teams across the United Kingdom and does not appear to be short of suitors if he does decide to move on from his home country.
It was stated that fellow Championship sides Middlesbrough and Hull City are also eyeing up a possible move to sign the 17-year-old starlet.
They could also face competition from Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, who are all said to be interested in the gem ahead of the January window.
Scottish giants Celtic have also scouted the player and could throw their hat into the ring in the race to secure the teenage talent’s signature.
Curtis vs Italy U21
Curtis’ most recent performance for Ireland U21 (via Sofascore)
The report did also add that St Patrick’s Athletic currently expect Curtis to complete a transfer away from the club during their off-season, which runs through to February.
However, there is no mention of how much it would take to reach an agreement with the Irish club or how much Leeds would be willing to pay.
The aforementioned list of clubs who are also keen on the right-back suggests that the Whites will face stiff competition for his services and that it could be a difficult deal for Farke to complete.
Curtis could, though, be a dream long-term heir to Byram if they are able to win the race to sign the Republic of Ireland U21 international.
Sam Byram’s season in numbers
The 30-year-old enforcer was a risky signing for Leeds when you consider the lack of football he has played in recent years due to injury issues.
Heading into the summer, Byram had only featured in 34 competitive matches for Norwich since the start of the 2020/21 campaign – including 30 of their 130 league games during those three seasons.
That included a hamstring injury that caused him to miss 40 clashes between 2020 and 2021 and his lack of availability over the last few years for the Canaries was concerning at the time of his move to Elland Road.
However, the English full-back has played in 15 of the club’s 17 Championship matches and has been involved in 16 squads so far this season.
The impressive performer has avoided any lengthy lay-offs as of yet and has been a consistent operator for Farke, both in terms of performance and availability.
Byram has started 13 league games and caught the eye with 2.9 tackles and interceptions along with 4.4 ball recoveries per match for the Whites.
The experienced titan, who has won 50% of his duels, ranks within the top 16% of his positional peers at Championship level for interceptions (1.71), blocks (1.62), and aerial battles won (2.48) per 90 this term.
These statistics show that the defender has been an excellent option for the club with his strong defensive displays – cutting out opposition attacks on a regular basis at left-back.
The statistics that show why Curtis could be Byram’s heir
Curtis could now be brought in during the January window to learn from Byram and develop as his understudy before eventually nailing a position his own in the future.
His versatility could be a key strength as, like Byram, he can play at right-back or centre-back, and Farke could even look to utilise him at left-back in the same way that he has with the former Norwich man.
Although Curtis is yet to play in that position, he has plenty of experience in the Leeds star’s other two roles and has the requisite defensive quality that could make him a valuable option on the left if transformed into a number three.
The 17-year-old prospect, who turns 18 in December, has already racked up 60 first-team appearances for his club and has started 34 league games throughout 2023.
He has established himself as a regular at senior level in spite of his age and this speaks to the quality and maturity that the young full-back has shown so far.
As you can see in the video above, the St Patrick’s star can put a good cross in and could provide service for the likes of Georginio Rutter and Joel Piroe to thrive off – whether he is playing on the left and cutting inside to cross or whipping it in from the right as shown there.
Curtis, who journalist Seán O’Connor dubbed a “rising star”, also showcased his defensive quality at right-back in the Premier Division in 2023 with a return of 3.4 tackles and interceptions along with 5.2 ball recoveries per match for his side in those 34 appearances.
This is more impressive than Byram’s defensive contributions for Leeds this season as the Irish whiz has won possession back for his side more frequently than the right-footed battler.
The teenage gem also won an eye-catching 63% of his duels in that time and this shows that he has the physical attributes to compete, and dominate, in senior football.
Therefore, Leeds could bring Curtis in as the long-term heir to Byram as a versatile defender who can play multiple positions across the backline as a right-footed enforcer with superb defensive capabilities.