Bike rides around the idyllic lakes where he grew up, a teenage growth spurt that accelerated his career, and a lockdown training retreat with his brother: meet ‘Medford Messi’ Brenden Aaronson as Leeds snap up the USA star in a £22m deal from RB Salzburg
- Brenden Aaronson, attacking midfielder, will join Leeds from RB Salzburg
- The American leaves Germany after 18 months with two league and cup doubles
- Aaronson’s size was a big problem until he had a growth spurt before he went to college.
- Leeds boss Jesse Marsch was in charge of Salzburg when they signed Aaronson
In the basement of his family’s home in picturesque Medford, New Jersey, Brenden Aaronson and his younger brother would face off for hours on their carpeted soccer field.
When the 21-year-old makes his Leeds United debut in front of 38,000 fans at Elland Road in August, he will feel a world away from that basement.
But the skills on display will owe much to those clandestine duels. Not for nothing is the United States star nicknamed ‘The Medford Messi’.
Leeds United have snapped up the ‘Medford Messi’ with Brenden Aaronson joining for £22m
The 21-year-old midfielder worked with Leeds head coach Jesse Marsch in Salzburg.
Aaronson, an attacking midfielder, will join Leeds from Red Bull Salzburg this summer, with a £22m deal confirmed on Thursday. The Whites had tried to sign him in January, but such was the Austrian club’s determination to retain him that they ignored a second £20m offer.
Aaronson starred as Salzburg came within seconds of a famous victory over Bayern Munich in the first leg of February’s Champions League round of 16, setting up his first goal only for Kingsley Coman to equalize in death. They lost the second leg 7-1.
But he leaves, after just 18 months, with two league and cup doubles. Salzburg will also make a £15m profit on a player he paid the Philadelphia Union around £7m for in January last year.
Aaronson’s size was a big problem until the last couple of years. He cried, even at 16, when he was driving home with his parents after games where boys his age physically bullied him. But a growth spurt before he left home for Indiana University, taking him to 5-foot-10, accelerated his career.
Aaronson (left) has won two league titles during his time in Austria with RB Salzburg.
Leeds manager Jesse Marsch was in charge at Salzburg when they signed his young compatriot. He is very aggressive, he runs all day, he is smart with the ball. He does all the things we like in a player,” Marsch said last year.
The compliment was soon returned. I have learned a lot. Jesse is a fantastic coach for me,” Aaronson said. He is very open. He teaches you other things.
There is a lot of raw skill to work with. Much of that goes back to growing up in the idyllic surroundings of his hometown, where bike rides around Medford Lakes vied with a love of football.
A prepared opponent in his brother, Paxten, was invaluable. The 18-year-old is following in the footsteps of Aaronson at the Philadelphia Union and has been capped by the US Under 20 team.
Leeds manager Jesse Marsch was in charge of Salzburg when they signed his young compatriot
Their father, Rusty, helped with the formation of Real Jersey FC, a youth team in Medford where the brothers started. He also opened an indoor training center near the family home months before the Covid pandemic. For the Aaronson brothers, it was the perfect lockdown retreat.
In a matter of months, at just 19 years old, he got his first international call-up. He was followed by eighteen caps and five goals and will face England at the World Cup in Qatar on November 25.
By then, we will know a lot more about him.