Central midfielders were nowhere to be found among Victor Orta’s receipts for this summer’s Leeds United shopping and when you listen to Marcelo Bielsa you understand why.
In Adam Forshaw, when fully fit, the Whites head coach firmly believes he has one of the best players at the club and a level of quality unattainable in the transfer window.
United have only felt emboldened with their take on the market by the steadily promising performances of Forshaw.
After an hour, plus whatever he played in the behind-closed-doors friendly with Manchester City, Forshaw delivered another brace of 60-minute outings with the real stuff.
On August 16, he got to an hour with the under-23s at Crystal Palace and then eight days later it was the most encouraging display yet as he impressed with the first team against Crewe Alexandra.
Playing the matches is half the battle for Forshaw, after nearly two years out, it’s how his body reacts the games.
Ahead of Burnley, Bielsa provided the good news.
“He’s reacted positively,” said Bielsa. “He played 60 minutes and he did it in a very intense manner. The recovery in the days after the game has been satisfactory.
“Our hope and desire is as time goes on we won’t need to worry about how he deals with the loads and we will consider him fully healthy.”
The Elland Road chief recently opened up on Forshaw’s travails and how they hope to, this time, finally get it right with his recovery after perhaps rushing it at times.
“The process with Forshaw has to be a long one so he is able to play again at the highest level with his virtues,” he said.
“Of course the level of demand when he plays for the [under-]23s is not the same he would face in the Premier League and it’s not the same to finish or complete a game, than to play segments of games and it’s not the same to compete twice a week, than competing once a week and taking care.
“What we need to manage is for Forshaw to complete two games in one week and this doesn’t increase or produce a risk of injury, and he can chain together the games.
“That’s what a player normally does when they’re coming into the squad in the Premier League, being able to play one or two times per week, being able to recover in that time and if there’s only one game a week he’s able to train leading up to that game and after that game also.”
In Bielsa’s first summer at Leeds, before he ruled himself out of the final friendly against Las Palmas, Forshaw had looked the best player of pre-season.
While he accepts Forshaw is not that same player right now, he hopes their patient approach will pay dividends in unlocking a player better than anything available to Orta in the summer window.
“To make reference to the player Forshaw was two years ago, he was one of the best players Leeds had, without any doubt,” he said.
“And of course after two years without playing, he’s not that same player.
“The process for him to start looking like that player again necessarily has to be progressive and it has to permit him to feel confident.
“If we do this in a rush, urgently or anxiously, there are a lot of risks we run.
“He’s a very serious and applied professional and I’m sure he has a desire to shorten the time, but if there’s errors we’ve made in the past, with this injury that has lasted two years, it is we’ve accelerated the times and to have brought him back prematurely, that has generated other injuries.
“So, when he’s recovered healthy and full, he has the characteristics we can’t buy in the market at the moment.”
The under-23s are next in action on September 8, when they host Wigan Athletic in the Premier League Cup, though Mark Jackson has suggested it will be more like an under-18s line-up.
Forshaw’s next run out is likely to be at Thorp Arch on September 11 in a 1pm kick-off with West Ham United in Premier League 2.
The first team host Liverpool at Elland Road one day later, when the midfielder should be on the bench.