Leeds United: He's Talented, But Bellusci Is Better Off Going Back To Italy

Many players have come and gone over the years that have caused fractures in the Leeds crowd, but none more-so than Bellusci, a name which conjures adoration and hatred in equal measures.
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Patrick Gunn
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Many players have come and gone over the years that have caused fractures in the Leeds crowd, but none more-so than Bellusci, a name which conjures adoration and hatred in equal measures.

The combative Italian defender has been at Leeds for just around a year now, signing a permanent deal in August 2014 after originally arriving on loan from Catania. In that time, Bellusci has played 33 times, scored twice, picked up 13 yellow cards and been sent off on two occasions. Some call him "The Warrior", others call him a liability, some... well some call him names that I won't bother to write down here, but you get my point. He's controversial, complicated, and, more importantly, could soon be on his way out of Elland Road.

Bellusci's detractors will, no doubt, be eager to see the back of the Italian, after a year in which a large section of the Leeds fanbase turned against the centre-half, particularly in the wake of the Charlton injury saga. Ignoring his disciplinary infractions earlier in the season, and the unproven "racism" claims levelled at him by Cameron Jerome, it was the Charlton incident that saw the most backlash hit Bellusci, along with the rest of the so-called "sicknote six". It has been well documented that Bellusci was one of a number of players who didn't see eye-to-eye with Neil Redfearn, an issue which came to a head in an off-pitch altercation with Sol Bamba, leading to assumptions that Bellusci's "injury" was part of a "protest" against Redfearn's management of the team, despite his fairly constant inclusion in the starting XI.

Arguments could run all day about whether or not Bellusci & co. were lying about their injuries in order to undermine Redfearn, but there is no denying that the incident has caused a huge rift between the player and a large number of fans. Others have staunchly defended him, claiming that the same vitriol would never be directed at one of the club's British contingent, and that no proof has ever been revealed that holds Bellusci accountable for any wrongdoing. Many of those supporters would also claim that the Italian, and this has been claimed by some, is the best defender available to Leeds at this time. That, as opposed to the opinionated minefield that is the Charlton situation, is something that can be put to the test and debated properly.

Now, if you read my blog regularly, or follow me on Twitter, then you'll know my opinion on Bellusci already. I'm not a fan of him as a person, and I don't like the way he has acted in the fallout of the Charlton game. However, what I think of him as a person shouldn't, and doesn't, affect the way I look at him as a player. Simply put, in my opinion, Bellusci is a solid but frustrating defender at Championship level. He's hot-headed, and prone to rash challenges that put himself and his team at risk, often stepping miles out of position only to leave his man completely unmarked. His debut against Watford ended in a 4-1 defeat, with Bellusci sent off after conceding a penalty early in the second half. But, on the other hand, he's also capable of flashes of brilliance, none more so than his barnstorming free-kick against Bournemouth, or his lung-bursting, full-pitch run against Huddersfield that saw him hit the bar before Mirco Antenucci finished off the rebound. Seriously, that Bournemouth goal. Come on. I'd celebrate that one if Robert Mugabe stuck it in.

In a sort of budget-David Luiz way, Bellusci is wildly entertaining, but hugely unpredictable. Unfortunately for Leeds, when push comes to shove in this league, unpredictability is rarely a positive trait for a defender. Teams rarely exit this league in an upward direction after conceding more than 50 goals, so discipline and composure at the back is a necessity. In Sol Bamba, Leeds have one of, if not the best central defender in the Championship, but his job in marshalling the back line is made twice as hard when he is covering for a partner that allows himself to be pulled out of position so often. As we saw against Bristol City, Uwe Rosler's approach to the game is going to lead to Leeds soaking up pressure for long periods, before hitting teams on the break. Ironically enough, Bellusci's game is pretty much perfect for the counter-attack section of Rosler's plan, but he is nowhere near disciplined enough to perform the other, significant part - the defending.

Liam Cooper, currently rotating with Bellusci alongside Bamba, is a good prospect, but doesn't yet look like he could play regularly alongside the Leeds captain. If Bellusci does leave Leeds this summer, which, given the animosity between himself and some supporters, seems like a good deal for all parties, a replacement would be a necessity. If the club can manage to reclaim a decent amount of the supposed £1.7 million transfer fee paid to Catania, the funds may be put towards an approach for Leicester City's Liam Moore, who has been heavily linked with a possible loan move over the summer.

Of course, the rumours may be just that; rumours, and Bellusci may be here for the long haul, in which case Uwe Rosler will need to make a decision soon regarding the best possible partner for Bamba in the centre of defence. Liam Cooper is, in my view, the better option in the long run - playing alongside Bamba will give him an excellent education in how to defend at this level, and he has the attitude required to learn and grow as a player - but Bellusci often looks like the better option for the immediate future. If (and it's a big if) he can be controlled, and learn to hold his position and tone down his aggression, then he and Bamba would, no doubt, make an extremely strong defensive partnership, both capable of bringing the ball out of defence in a counter-attack. However, in the past year, I've seen very little to suggest that Bellusci has the attitude or temperament that will allow him to take on instruction designed to alter his game. As suggested by a fellow supporter recently, a move back to Italy, where his idiosyncracies would be better tolerated, may the best thing for both Bellusci and Leeds.

Obviously, many readers will disagree with my outlook, as is to be expected with a player like Bellusci. His aggression on and off the pitch will be seen by many as a positive, especially at a club like Leeds, while others may disagree with my comments regarding his character or his style of play. To those readers, I would like to say that I hope to be proven wrong. If Bellusci is still at Leeds come the end of the transfer window, then I sincerely hope he goes on to have a great season, and silences his naysayers, myself included. If, however, he does go to one of the clubs rumoured to be interested, and the club brings in a solid replacement, then I know I'll feel a lot more comfortable about the remainder of the season.

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