Meet Wilfried Gnonto, Leeds' New Italian Genius

Just as deadline day was about to slam shut, Leeds United surprised many by signing winger, Wilfried Gnonto. Anyone familiar with the 18-year-old Italian however, will be aware of the brilliant business done by Jesse Marsch to bring him to England for as little as he did. 

Turning 19 in November, Gnonto is still extremely young, but his ability on the pitch is well beyond his years. The teenager’s spell-binding skill combined with superb soccer intelligence makes him a nightmare for defenders everywhere. His move to Leeds takes him away from FC Zürich, where he’s played for three seasons, and Swiss backlines will be thanking the Lord that the Italian has moved on to pastures new.

In the 2021-22 Swiss Super League season, Gnonto recorded a goal contribution every 117 minutes with eight goals and three assists to his name. This earned him his first call-up to the Italian national team for this summer’s Nations League games as well as the Finalissima against Argentina at Wembley. 

He made his official debut against Germany in June, providing a brilliant assist only five minutes after coming on as a sub. After driving straight at Thilo Kehrer, Gnonto earned just enough space on the wing, before fizzing the ball perfectly across the corridor of uncertainty, on a platter for Lorenzo Pellegrini to pass home. 

He’d need to wait only ten more days for his first goal, but the second date with the Germans proved bittersweet for Gnonto. A tap-in from close range earned him the title of youngest goal scorer for Italy, a record which had previously stood since 1958. The goal was of little consolation as Germany ran out 5-2 victors over the Italians but Gnonto had made his mark.

Born in Italy to Ivorian parents, education was always a priority for Wilfried. His genius on the field comes as no surprise as the Italian spent the majority of his youth studying or playing soccer.

In an interview with, he said, "growing up, it was school, football, school and more football!" 

Wilfried grew up playing in the Inter Milan academy, training with the first team on some occasions. Ever the overachiever on both fronts, Gnonto even switched from a traditional secondary school to a liceo scientifico, a more academically rigorous school with the goal of better preparedness for higher learning. 

“I like studying,” Ngonto said in an interview with Ronache di Spogliatoio, “my favorite subject was Latin.”

Gnonto showed off his intellect in his first interaction with new boss Jesse Marsch, as the American was stunned that he speaks both English and German, earning a cheeky “sehr gut!” from Marsch. 

Versatility is a skill that Gnonto will make great use of in England. Able to play both out wide and centrally, he will fit into Marsch’s system well, especially in the absence of Rodrigo, whose injury will keep the Spaniard sidelined for at least a month

It is highly unlikely that Wilfried will start against Brentford on Saturday, but he may feature off the bench. If not he will be eyeing Leeds’ next home match against Nottingham Forest on September 12.

Deadline day signings don’t get much better than Gnonto, and for just under $5 million according to Transfermarkt, the Italian may just be one of the bargain signings of the entire summer. 

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