Leeds snap up 'Medford Messi' as Aaronson reunites with Marsch

Bike rides around the Medford Lakes, a career-accelerating teenage growth spurt and invaluable family support: Meet the ‘Medford Messi’ Brenden Aaronson as Leeds snap up US star in £22m deal

  • Brenden Aaronson, an attacking midfielder, will arrive at 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 a growth spurt before going to college 
  • Leeds boss Jesse Marsch was in charge of Salzburg when they signed Aaronson

In the cellar of his family home in the quaint township of Medford, New Jersey, Brenden Aaronson and his younger brother would face off for hours on their carpeted soccer pitch.

When the 21-year-old debuts for Leeds United in front of 38,000 at Elland Road in August, it will feel a world away from that basement.

But the skills on display will owe much to those underground duels. It is with good reason the United States star is nicknamed ‘The Medford Messi’.

Leeds United have snapped up the ‘Medford Messi’ with Brenden Aaronson joining for £22m

The 21-year-old midfielder worked under Leeds head coach Jesse Marsch at Salzburg

Aaronson, an attacking midfielder, will arrive at Leeds from Red Bull Salzburg this summer, with a £22million deal confirmed on Thursday. The Whites had tried to sign him in January, but such was the Austrian club’s determination to keep him, they ignored a second offer of £20m.

Aaronson starred as Salzburg came within seconds of a famous win over Bayern Munich in the first leg of February’s Champions League last-16 tie, creating their opening goal only for Kingsley Coman to equalise at the death. They lost the the second leg 7-1.

But he leaves, after just 18 months, with two league and cup doubles. Salzburg will also make a profit of £15m on a player they paid Philadelphia Union around £7m for in January last year.

Aaronson’s size was a big problem until recent years. He would cry, even as late as 16, when driving home with his parents after matches in which he was physically intimidated by boys of his own age. But a growth spurt before leaving home for Indiana University, taking him to 5ft 10in, accelerated his career.

Aaronson (left) has won two league titles during his time at in Austria with RB Salzburg

Leeds boss Jesse Marsch was in charge of Salzburg when they signed his young countryman. ‘He’s very aggressive, he runs all day, he’s clever on the ball. He does all the things we like in a player,’ said Marsch last year.

The compliment was soon returned. ‘I’ve learned so much. Jesse’s a fantastic coach for me,’ said Aaronson. ‘He’s very open. He teaches you other things.’

There is a lot of raw ability to work with. Much of that can be traced back to his upbringing in the idyllic surrounds of his hometown, where bike rides around Medford Lakes competed with a love of football.

A ready-made opponent in his brother, Paxten, was invaluable. The 18-year-old is following in Aaronson’s stud marks at Philadelphia Union and has been capped by USA’s Under 20 team.

Leeds boss Jesse Marsch was in charge of Salzburg when they signed his young countryman 

Their father, Rusty, helped with the formation of Real Jersey FC, a youth team in Medford where the brothers began. He also opened an indoor training centre close to the family home months before the Covid pandemic. For the Aaronson brothers, it was the perfect lockdown retreat.

Within months, aged just 19, he earned his first international call-up. Eighteen caps and five goals have followed and he will line up against England at the World Cup in Qatar on November 25.

By then, we will know a lot more about him.

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