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Dublin: 5°C Monday 8 March 2021

Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa reveals reasons for snubbing Ireland international Eunan O'Kane

The 28-year-old midfielder was not given a squad number for the new season.

Eunan O'Kane (file pic).
Eunan O'Kane (file pic).
Image: Dave Howarth

LEEDS MANAGER MARCELO Bielsa says he has had to omit some players, including Ireland international Eunan O’Kane, from his plans for this season with the intention of helping some of the club’s younger players develop instead.

O’Kane, Vurnon Anita and Caleb Ekuban all featured heavily for Leeds during the 2017/18 campaign, but none of them have played a part since Bielsa took over in June. The trio have also not been given squad numbers for this season.

The Argentine has suggested that their futures lie away from the club with Bielsa keen to develop some of the younger talent at his disposal.

Asked why none of the players have featured this season, Bielsa told reporters: “When a professional player has a history as a football player, for example Anita, O’Kane and Ekuban have history, one way to respect them is to keep them inside the team if they have the possibility to play in another position.

“If we have one position and three players it’s very difficult that the third player in the position gets time to play. I saw every game and every minute that they played last year and I also listened to the opinion of the club.

If you haven’t trained a player it’s a deficit to make a decision. We then built a group where we have two players for each position and if we had acted in another way it would have been counterproductive.

“For example, I have Ayling, Dallas and Shackleton, because Shackleton is a youngster who has time to develop in his career, but I can’t do the same thing with Ayling, Dallas and Anita.

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“I would be doing something not very good to one of the three players, so when you take decisions you have to transmit them at the right moment and I think this is an honest behaviour.”

The former Argentina coach says that although it may have been beneficial to have the trio as squad options, it would be unfair to keep them for this purpose at this stage of their careers.

He added: “Of course, I can make mistakes but I don’t want to make any mistakes. For example, I can say that because of Dallas’ injury it could have been a good thing to have Anita with us, it would have been better for me but I think it would be unfair to keep a player with us if he doesn’t have the possibility to get the time he deserves.”

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