Outstanding talent, role model and league's best - what Daniel Farke thinks of Leeds United stars

Whatever happens beneath the Wembley arch on Sunday, Daniel Farke will be proud of his Leeds United players this season. For most of the campaign, they have given their all for the club, racking up an incredible 90 points over the course of the regular season and making the play-off final with that thumping 4-0 win over Norwich City.

There are always up and downs, but it's easy to forget the state the squad was in following relegation from the Premier League, with the players leaving in their droves. A new heart to the side had to found, and Farke's summer transfer business saw a solid spine emerge.

The German is always happy to praise his players - although never too much - and has had plenty of reason too over the last nine months. And so, as we prepare for Sunday's showdown, here's what Farke has said about his Leeds United players so far this season - with hopefuly more praise to come this weekend.

READ MORE: Summerville on Leeds United leadership, Walker-Peters and Firpo link

Illan Meslier

Meslier has had a solid season after some jitters in the Premier League, but Farke is in no doubt over his ability. Speaking after his heroics against Leicester back in November, he said: “He can be any goalkeeper at one point, he’s still unbelievably young. He had a difficult spell at times last season, especially for a young goalkeeper, but then it is important to play with confidence.

“For the way we want to play, I know he has the skills to play out from the back and also needs to build a bit of confidence with us, but his potential is outstanding and never in doubt. My feeling is that he just needs rhythm and confidence and this is what he gains. He is also crucial for six clean sheets, a really good defensive behaviour, also for our build-up.

"The potential of Illan is just massive. When you have a diamond like him you have to back him, especially when a young player can’t play without mistakes is quite normal, but especially a goalkeeper needs backing. If he produces a performance like this, we are on the right path. He’s still not completely playing without a mistake, the last home game was probably not his best one, but if I judge his games so far, I think he is excellent and the best goalkeeper in the league.”

Ethan Ampadu

The Welshman has formed a strong partnership with Joe Rodon and Farke has been very pleased with his development since arriving from Chelsea. “Overall a fantastic season, we are more than happy how he has developed also since we signed him,” he said.

“You couldn’t predict that it would work that smoothly and on this level when we signed him because he had also a few tough, tough years. But he’s doing exceptionally well. I think had, especially in the beginning and after I would say game day six, many, many top, top class performances. I think the last performance was solid in terms of defending and the stability that he gives.

“Yes, sometimes his forward passing could be a bit more precise and tidy in the recent games but even if he doesn’t have his best days, he is still there with a seven out of 10 and this is also what we need in the middle of the park.”

Joe Rodon

The Spurs loanee has been a vital cog in the Leeds defence, and Farke is well aware of his value, saying: ““Old school attitude, but a role model for modern defenders. High line, good body language. We have worked on his leadership in the backline and we're pleased we have him. It was the same 30 years ago and it's the same 30 years from now. The first thing you need to do as a defender is defend. If he keeps going like this we are very happy,”

Archie Gray

Farke has been reluctant to heap too much praise on youngsters and putting pressure on them, but Archie Gray's performances have meant it's simply unavoidable.

"All the praise has to go to Archie," Farke said of the youngster. "You can work with a player, back the player and trust the player, but we can only bring him to the door and he has to make that step through it. How he's done that, with the maturity and consistency he has, is outstanding for a 17-year-old.

"He's still unbelievably grounded, humble and has good habits. That is so crucial that you don't get over the moon after just one or two good games or a couple of good months. It is so far, so good. But quality is always defined over the long term, and he has to keep going in order to speak about a really quality season. I've worked throughout my career with fantastic young players. I don't like to compare that much, but it is fantastic what he's doing. When you are that young and getting that much praise it is not always easy to handle, but he's so, so grounded and so open to developing and working hard each day. The experience in his family helps a lot, and I have to give many compliments to the Gray family. They are doing fantastically well with him."

Junior Firpo

The full-back has established himself in the side after an injury-hit start to the season, which led to Farke defending his abilities. "Yes, Junior's an attacking minded full-back and he suits our game that much because he can join the attack," explained Farke. "He's been great in the recent weeks. Yes, defending, he can be more switched on, but also once we were not there in perfect positioning. He is a threat in possession and created so many chances. If he could do both things at the top level we could not afford him. He has many strengths and I am pleased he could show this."

Ilia Gruev

It took the Bulgarian a little time to break into the side, but he has not looked back, and Farke is delighted with the summer signing: "From the first day; humble, modest, down to earth, hard working and patient. Always the first one in and the last one out. Always wanted extra work. He is one of the most-professional players i have ever worked with."

Crysencio Summerville

Has there been anyone to do more for the Leeds United cause this season. Farke is certainly well aware of just how good the Dutchman is, saying: "He is playing an outstanding season in terms of performances, end product and also his willingness to work for the team, to be there and deliver on a daily basis even in training, otherwise you can’t deliver consistency in this league.

“You have to be on it each and every day on the training pitch but also with good habits in nutrition, sleep and recovery. We don’t have to speak about the potential of Cree, the sky is the limit with his potential but to show consistency this is crucial. It’s no coincidence he has delivered many end products.”

Daniel James

Injury curtailed James' involvement somewhat in recent months, but the Wales winger has still played a big role. "He's a brilliant lad. It says all about the Leeds United family," Farke said of James. "We're happy for him, we are there for all family members."

"His identification with this club is second to none. He always works hard. He had to support our full-backs and he was great in his work against the ball, could have an assist and had one or two good chances."

Willy Gnonto

After being given a 'second chance' by Farke following last summer's transfer saga, the Italian has paid his manager back.

"What I like a lot about Willy at the moment is his attitude," he said in December. "He was always used to shine, always the posterboy. It’s not easy when he’s on the bench, but when we score and do positive stuff, the first one celebrating on the pitch is Willy.

“I like our team spirit that we are also happy for the teammates. It’s also a good solution to find our best way back. He has to be stubborn and patient and keep going, and he will be back at his best I’m sure.”

Patrick Bamford

The No 9's experience has been viital and, after a hard 2023, he came roaring back following the turn of the year, which delighted Farke.

Speaking after scoring at Sheffield Wednesday in March, he said: "Everyone speaks about the goal he scored at Peterborough in the Cup – 'worldie' – this is for me a world-class striker goal to have this instinct to know Junior will be there with the cross and have this movement away from the opponent at the far post and you still have to have the concentration to put the ball in, it was not that easy to score.

"I was really pleased because this is the sign of a top-class striker – when it counts you have to be there and you have to be clinical. This is what he gave us. His contribution before the second goal – and Georgie Rutter's – was a really good assist so we're all happy we have Patrick back to his best shape."

Georginio Rutter

The forward has shown his true value to Leeds this season, and Farke knows there is more to come, saying: “He’s great in his linking of the play and creating moments for teammates, with assists and the only thing we spoke about that he can improve is his goal tally," he said after Rutter scored against Leicester. "He scores and this right now is also like a typical striker's goal to be there for the rebound, I am pretty delighted for him”.

Joel Piroe

Farke was delighted to have signed the Dutchman from Swansea City, saying: "I think his statistics speak for themselves, he's an unbelievable quality player who is capable of delivering end products. He has got more than 20 goals last season also in the season before.

"He delivered many assists, also a really good team-mate so we made sure that we got a really humble and hardworking character and also many technical skills. He is able to link a play, to find a pass and we also needed definitely also goals because especially in the last games we were missing.

"Yeah, this goes from offensive players, quality to deliver end product and he has the quality, has proved this and he doesn't have to prove this. We got the feeling he can be beneficial for us.

Glen Kamara

Another summer signing, Farke said the former Rangers' midfielder's skills were priceless. "When I judge his last five or six games I would say he is on a top level. Decision-making on the ball. Experience and class to find a good balance.

“His calmness on the ball, he is priceless. Like how competitive he is against the ball. Won many duels. Aggressive in pressing and recovering the balls. Quite crucial for our game. Pleased with him and he can go further in his way.”

Connor Roberts

The Welsh defender has had his injury problems since arriving on loan from Burnley, but Farke has been impressed. “Connor is just a few weeks with us," he said. "He has strength going forward. I got the feeling Connor is involved in goals and end product or assists. Felt he could help to turn the game."

Sam Byram

It's the second time Farke has worked with full-back Byram, and he knew exactly what he was getting, saying: “I was 100 per cent sure what he would offer when we signed him. He must be one of the best free transfers in the history of Leeds United. He's playing fantastic, an outstanding season so far.”

Jaidon Anthony

The winger arrived at Leeds when Luis Sinisterra moved to Bournemouth, and Farke was happy to have him on board. "He's a proven Championship player," he said. "He's started in many games at Premier League level, he's a brilliant lad desperate to be here and he's at an age where he will improve