Italy starlet Wilfried Gnonto netted his first goal for Leeds United in their 2-2 draw against West Ham United in the Premier League on Wednesday, the latest step in the former Inter prospect’s meteoric rise.
The forward joined Leeds on deadline day of the summer transfer window in a deal that went under the radar somewhat, but since breaking into the first team in West Yorkshire he hasn’t looked back.
Already a full Italian international and the Azzurri’s youngest-ever scorer after netting against Germany in the UEFA Nations League at just 18 years and 222 days, Gnonto appears destined for the top.
First Leeds goal after stunning Premier League start
Gnonto broke the deadlock at Elland Road in style, picking the ball up on the right flank and weaving his way inward before collecting a return pass from Crysencio Summerville to drill into the bottom corner.
The summer signing from FC Zurich was a handful throughout his 91 minutes against the Hammers, with powerful running and superb close control allowing Jesse Marsch‘s side the opportunity to break quickly and create chances.
It was the latest in a string of hugely impressive performances for Gnonto, and the 19-year-old has impressed every time he has taken to the pitch for Leeds.
Marsch was initially hesitant to unleash his new signing, but Gnonto had a debut to remember in late October as he stepped off the bench to set up Summerville in stoppage time for a 2-1 win, condemning Liverpool to a first league defeat in front of a crowd at Anfield in 81 matches.
It was followed up a week later by a starring role in a thrilling 4-3 win over Bournemouth, with Gnonto the key man as Leeds came from 3-1 down to win. The Cherries could not cope with his direct running and blistering pace, as he again set up Summerville for the winner.
Italy’s future looks bright
Gnonto displays a mixture of pace, power, and a low centre of gravity that makes it almost impossible to knock him off the ball, and it was these qualities that prompted Italy coach Roberto Mancini to call the unknown teenager up to his Azzurri squad last year.
The forward now has eight senior caps, and is destined to form part of Italy’s attack for years to come as his star continues to shine.
After making the switch from Zurich as Leeds pushed forward plans to sign him after loaning Dan James to Fulham, Gnonto has already begun to repay the trust in him from the Whites, and it bodes well for the Azzurri.
Quite what Inter make of the rough diamond that they let slip remains to be seen however.