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Player struggling after failed £3.2m Leeds move as ‘horror performances’ slammed

Ao Tanaka is starting to become a ’mega problem’ at Fortuna Dusseldorf after the Japan international missed out on a potential £3.2 million move to Championship outfit Leeds United. 

It may be six weeks now since the window closed but Ao Tanaka, it seems, is yet to come to terms with the trauma of a late-August switch to Elland Road slipping through his fingers. 

Leeds United, according to BILD, offered £3.2 million for the all-action midfielder. But after opting to sign the similarly-German based Ilia Gruev from Werder Bremen instead – Leeds were reportedly ‘not entirely convinced of Tanaka’s qualities’ – the Japanese enforcer is struggling to rediscover the form that caught the eye of Daniel Farke’s side in the first place. 

Fortuna Düsseldorf v Karlsruher SC - Second Bundesliga
Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

BILD certainly don’t pull any punches. 

Ao Tanaka struggling after Leeds United offer

Tanaka, they say, is becoming a ‘mega problem’ with his ‘horror performances’. The 25-year-old flopped during Fortuna’s 1-0 defeat to Hamburg, a place on the bench his punishment for the draw with Osnabruck before the October international break.

“It’s not easy for him right now,” sighs Fortuna coach Daniel Thioune. “Maybe he’s just a young player. He also told me clearly that he was still missing something to fully understand (how to perform) in the second division.”

Thioune remains hopeful that a spell away from the club game will help light a fire under Tanaka again, the former Kawasaka Frontale man reuniting with a Japan squad who hammered Germany last month and sent Hansi Flick packing.

“It’s a little easier to gain your confidence with the national team,” Thioune adds. “I hope that this will happen again in the next few days and weeks. He has given us a lot of joy, so we have to give him a little hug.” 

No Championship starts yet for Ilia Gruev

As for Gruev, he too is yet to really get going this term. Overshadowed by fellow midfielder Glen Kamara, the £5 million acquisition from Bremen has played only three minutes of Championship football under Farke. 

SV Werder Bremen v FC Bayern München - Bundesliga
Photo by Marco Steinbrenner/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

“I think, for each and every player, it is something different when you come to the motherland of football because our approach here, our physicality in this league, is also second to none,” the ex-Norwich City boss tells Leeds Live. 

“It’s always normal that you need also a bit of time. (Gruev) is a top player, I am pretty pleased with him.

“But also in his position Ethan Ampadu is there with impressive performances, Archie Gray, also Glen Kamara right now with impressive performances.

“It’s not like an urgent case, an emergency case, where we are urged to throw him too early into the mix. So I much prefer this situation that, step-by-step, he can be integrated.”

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