Fans of international volleyball may be excited, or scared. Vital Heynen started preparations for the World Championships in Zakopane. Heynen announced earlier they hey is training with 15 players: the 14 who will compete in the World Championships and Tomas Fornal as a reserve. Heynen also dropped a bombshell while discussing the training sessions: Wilfredo Leon is in the gym with the team! The outside hitter from Cuba will be eligible to play for Poland in 2019. This has the potential to turn into an almost unstoppable force.
“Wilfredo came with his family, he will stay with us in class for a few days,” Heynen said of Leon. “This is important not only for him, but also for me. I want to get to know him better, and during trainings I treat like every coach, although his presence is not directly related to preparations for the World Cup. This thinking is very long-term, of course Leon will not help us in the World Championships, but it will be better integrated with the group.”
Wilfredo Leon burst onto the scene of international volleyball as a teenager. He won a gold medal at the NORCECA Championships and a silver medal at the FIVB Grand Champions Cup at just 16 years of age. At 17 he brought home a silver medal at the World Championships. He left Cuba at 19 and was out of the spotlight for two years until he was cleared by the FIVB to start playing again. He immediately has become the best player in the world while playing for Zenit Kazan in Russia.
At Zenit Kazan he has won four consecutive Russian Super League titles, four consecutive Russian Cups, and four consecutive CEV Champions League titles. His performance at the end of the 2018 Champions League against Lube Civitanova was nothing short of heroic. It was essentially the type of performance that legends are made of. In addition to these titles, he also helped Kazan win the FIVB Club World Championships this past year.
If Leon can turn Perugia into the best team in Europe and get them to the top of the podium at the Club World Championships (it is not certain that Perugia will take part since the qualification procedures have not been announced by the FIVB yet), then it could provide an exciting and scary situation for national teams throughout the world. It could show that he is a transcendent talent that can turn any team into a contender as the best in the world. His training with Poland will give him plenty of time to adapt with his new teammates before qualification for the 2020 Olympic Games.