When Leeds United announced the permanent signing of Sporting Lisbon winger Hadi Sacko on Friday, before a new head coach had been put in position, the reaction of Whites' supporters was always going to be mixed.

Still a mixture of seething, disappointed, frustrated and let down by the departure of Garry Monk following a single – highly successful – season at the helm at Elland Road, the permanent capture of a player who had been as frustrating as he had been promising was never going to get pulses racing.

Sacko made 28 starts for Leeds in the Championship this season and came off the bench on a further ten occasions. But the 23-year-old scored just twice and supplied three assists for his team-mates in his maiden season in England.

There is talent there but will the Malian make good on his promise at Elland Road to become the player Sporting, and now Leeds, expect?


What Sacko brings is pace, pace and more pace. The winger is a clear and direct threat running at full-backs and taking men on. His acceleration means he can get away from opposing players or spring a counter-attack to devastating effect.

Sacko glides past defenders with his speed and, coupled with his close control, trickery and confidence, can bamboozle an opposing player with an armoury of weapons.

But the problem lies with his end product. He either makes the wrong decision, fails to spot an option altogether or his final ball is left wanting. On that basis it comes as little surprise he has mustered just three assists this season, despite only missing eight league fixtures.

What is most frustrating for Leeds fans is that the ability is there. But it is a matter of unlocking it on a more regular basis to release the potential Sacko has shown in glimpses.

Take his assist for Marcus Antonsson's diving header in the 2-0 win at Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday in August. Having found space in the box, Sacko ignores the obvious option of Chris Wood (circled) and instead floats the ball to the back post where Antonsson (out of shot) has snuck in unnoticed to score a simple header.

Leeds United's Hadi Sacko crosses for Marcus Antonsson to score against Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship

Leeds United's Hadi Sacko crosses for Marcus Antonsson to score against Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship

But that exception proves the rule. Sacko lets himself down with his decision making in the final third and that is the biggest question mark against him.

In the images below, taken from Leeds' final-day draw at already-relegated Wigan Athletic, he sums that up perfectly.

With Kemar Roofe (circled in red) and Wood (circled in yellow) ahead of him, Leeds' number 24 gets caught in two minds and plays a terrible pass which goes between the two and the Latics defender intercepts.

Leeds United's Hadi Sacko in Championship action against Wigan Athletic

Another prime example came in the EFL Cup defeat to Liverpool at Anfield. With the Whites trailing 2-0 Sacko plays a neat one-two with Souleymane Doukara and finds himself progressing into the penalty area.

With Wood and Roofe for company again he instead goes for glory and sees his tame shot deflected over with his two team-mates left agitated by a lack of service when they were in better positions.

Leeds United's Hadi Sacko in EFL Cup action against Liverpool

Leeds United's Hadi Sacko in EFL Cup action against Liverpool

Sacko's decision-making, or lack of, has reached the point that it has its own hashtag on Twitter – #squareithadi refers to the wideman's failure to made the final decisive pass in big moments after getting himself into a good area.

To give Sacko his dues, he uses the hashtag too and the connection between player and fans – despite his shortcomings – is heartening and suggests he is unlikely to become a figure of serious frustration any time soon.

The good news for Leeds, exasperated supporters and whoever succeeds Monk is Sacko has time on his side.

At 23 he is still some way from his peak and recent history suggests not all Leeds United favourites are so from the moment they arrive.

Leeds United winger Hadi Sacko's 2016/17 stats

When Kiwi striker Wood joined from Leicester City in 2015 he flattered to deceive for long periods of his maiden season at the club, despite finishing with 13 league goals.

There was certainly little to suggest he would flourish and finish this campaign as the Championship's top goalscorer, a Player of the Year runner-up and member of Team of the Season after bagging 27 league goals.

Further back, it took Ross McCormack time to get up-and-running at Elland Road after he joined from Cardiff City. The Scottish forward had a good pedigree after netting 21 times in his first season in English football.

But after moving to Leeds the attacker managed just six starts and two goals in his debut campaign. By the time he left for Fulham in a £12million deal in 2014 he was coming off the back of a 28-goal season and secured as a fans' favourite.

The famous white shirt does weigh heavy and a packed Elland Road can boost a player's confidence further when they're flying. Or it can have an adverse effect when their form is not so good. That is worth taking into account when assessing Sacko's potential impact.

But if he is afforded the time McCormack and Wood were Sacko could end up delivering some humble pie for Leeds supporters.