The agent of Alex Mowatt insisted last night that the midfielder was not in discussions about a new deal at Leeds United, despite indications from the club that talks were on-going with their younger prospects.
Mark Rankine, the former Doncaster Rovers player who represents Mowatt, said he and the midfielder were in the dark about United’s intentions following comments by head coach Steve Evans which implied that talks had opened with Mowatt, Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor.
All three players are set to enter the final year of their contracts this summer and Evans, who was criticised by United owner Massimo Cellino on Tuesday for “talking too much”, spoke optimistically about the club finalising extensions to those deals last week, saying: “I think we won’t be going into next season with them only having one season left.”
Evans made those remarks ahead of Monday’s 4-0 defeat at Brighton, a result which led to speculation about his future as head coach and prompted Cellino to warn the 53-year-old that he was “talking too much about his future, about his contract, his players.”
The future of Cook, Mowatt and Taylor, all of whom are tied down to the summer of 2017, has been brought into sharper focus by the saga which led to Sam Byram’s move to West Ham United in January.
Byram was sold for £3.7m with six months left on his deal after Leeds failed to agree an extension to it. Negotiations ran into trouble following an attempt by the club to persuade the 22-year-old defender to accept a cut to his £12,000-a-week wage.
Evans said on Friday that he did not fear a repeat of that scenario with any other young player, insisting: “I don’t know if the status would be advanced but I certainly know the president and Paul Bell (United’s executive director) have been speaking to representatives of those guys. That will go where it goes.
“There’s no pressure from me; the club decides what’s right and what’s not right, but I think we won’t be going into next season with them only having one season left on their deals.”
Rankine, however, said he and Mowatt had not been approached by Leeds. “Absolutely none whatsoever,” Rankine said, when asked what contact United had made. “Nobody has spoken to me about it, or to Alex.”
The agents of Taylor and Cook were also asked to comment on the situation surrounding those players but did not respond. Cook signed a new deal as recently as last May, agreeing a two-year contract with United shortly after the end of the 2014-15 season.
Leeds resisted approaches for Cook in January, turning down firm interest from Bournemouth and retaining the 19-year-old beyond the end of the transfer window, but the terms of Cook’s existing deal are likely to invite further pressure in the summer.
A source involved in the negotiation of Cook’s contract last year has confirmed to the YEP that his current deal includes a release clause allowing the England Under-19 international to leave Elland Road for a fee of £5million if Leeds fail to win promotion this season.
United are 18th in the Championship with 13 games remaining and are out of the running for the play-offs, 17 points adrift of sixth place.
Cook, however, said in January that he was settled at Leeds and content with the chance to play regularly in the Championship. The youngster has made 34 appearances this season and scored his first senior league goal – a spectacular 30-yard strike – in a 1-1 draw with Fulham last month.
Speaking at the time, Cook said: “It’s great for me developing and I feel like I’m learning a lot. Hopefully I can push on my game a little bit further.
“Some people make that choice (to move to the Premier League at a young age) and it doesn’t always work out for them. At the moment I feel like I’m enjoying my football. Leeds are a big club as it is. I love playing for Leeds at the moment.”