Leeds United: Agard next on Whites hit-list

LEEDS LINK: The prolific Kieran Agard could be on his way to join the Whites.

LEEDS LINK: The prolific Kieran Agard could be on his way to join the Whites.

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LEEDS United are in talks with Rotherham United over a deal for Kieran Agard as the Elland Road club push for their 11th signing of the summer.

The YEP understands that Leeds and Rotherham discussed Agard at the beginning of this week after United moved to step up their long-standing interest in the prolific 24-year-old.

Agard was scouted by staff from Leeds last season and played in front of club owner Massimo Cellino after the Italian attended the second leg of the League One play-off semi-final between Rotherham and Preston North End in May.

Leeds did not make an immediate approach for Agard but the recent contact with Rotherham comes as part of a concerted attack on the transfer market in response to Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Millwall.

United confirmed the arrival of Italian defender Giuseppe Bellusci from Catania on Tuesday evening and finalised his season-long loan yesterday after Bellusci passed a medical.

The centre-back will be available to make his debut against Middlesbrough at Elland Road on Saturday – Leeds’ first home game of the Championship season – provided his international clearance arrives in time.

Leeds have also secured striker Billy Sharp on a two-year deal from Southampton, strengthening their attacking line with an experienced and proven Championship forward, and central defender Liam Cooper became the club’s 10th new recruit last night.

Cooper signed a three-year contract after United agreed an initial fee of around £600,000 with Chesterfield.

Leeds identified improvements to the centre of their defence and additions to their pool of strikers as pressing priorities after a comprehensive loss to Millwall on the first day of the season, and they remain interested in Agard despite the arrival of Sharp.

The former Everton player has a year left on his contract at Rotherham and recently rejected the offer of a new deal at the club, but the South Yorkshire club and their manager, Steve Evans, have consistently vowed to reject any bids for their leading players before the end of the transfer window. Agard scored 26 goals for Rotherham last season and was a driving force behind their run to promotion. He has a number of other clubs chasing him, including Bristol City.

Sharp’s arrival at Elland Road brings together a player and a team who have been linked countless times during his career.

The 28-year-old turned professional at Sheffield United but built his reputation at Scunthorpe United as half of an influential partnership with Andy Keogh.

Sharp’s CV - listing spells with Doncaster, Nottingham Forest, Reading and Southampton - also shows a consistent goalscoring record but he was peripheral at Southampton after moving to St Mary’s in a £1.8m deal at the beginning of 2012. He spent much of last season on loan at Reading and Doncaster.

Southampton said Leeds had paid an “undisclosed fee” for Sharp, though the two clubs are understood to have reached a deal through which United will settle the last year of Sharp’s contract at St Mary’s.

The striker said: “In the summer I heard there was interest (from Leeds) so I’ve been hanging on and hanging on.

“I’m buzzing to be here and I hope I can get off to a good start. The big thing for me about football is to get the fans on your side and have a good relationship with them. Hopefully the talent in the squad will give me chances, I’ll put them away and everyone will be happy.”

The Whites excitement continued on Wednesday night when Leeds were handed a Capital One Cup second round tie at Yorkshire rivals Bradford City.

United booked their place in the second round with Tuesday night’s 2-1 victory at home to Accrington Stanley with Bradford winning 1-0 at Morecambe the same evening.

Ties will be played on August 26 or August 27.

Capital One Cup second round draw: Burton v QPR, Port Vale v Cardiff, Middlesbrough v Preston, Stoke v Portsmouth, Huddersfield v Nottm Forest, Swansea v Rotherham, Watford v Doncaster, Millwall v Southampton, Bournemouth v Northampton, Brentford v Fulham, West Brom v Oxford, Scunthorpe v Reading, Derby v Charlton, West Ham v Sheff Utd, Swindon v Brighton, Leicester v Shrewsbury, Crewe v Bolton, Birmingham v Sunderland, Gillingham v Newcastle, Norwich v Crawley, Bradford v Leeds, Aston Villa v Leyton Orient, Burnley v Sheff Wed, Walsall v Crystal Palace, MK Dons v Man Utd.