GARRY MONK will place Kyle Bartley at the top of his list of transfer targets if he stays on as Leeds United head coach after watching Bartley produce “the best football he’s ever played”.
Monk wants Leeds to pursue the permanent signing of Bartley from Swansea City this summer and plans to lay out his plans for next season when he opens talks about a new contract with United co-owner Andrea Radrizzani.
Radrizzani, who carried out a brief assessment of Monk’s first year in charge at Thorp Arch on Saturday, is preparing to hold more detailed discussions over a deal to keep Monk at Elland Road for a second season.
His maiden campaign ended with Leeds seventh in the Championship after their final game at Wigan Athletic on Sunday, and Monk said he would look for signs that Radrizzani’s ideas were “aligned with myself” when they sit down to negotiate the extension of a deal which expires next month.
The retention of on-loan Bartley is seen as a priority by Monk following the centre-back’s impressive performances at Elland Road. Bartley started all but one of United’s Championship games – a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa in December which he missed with a knee injury – and established a reliable partnership with Pontus Jansson in the centre of defence. He stood in as captain during periods of the season when Liam Bridcutt was absent through injury.
Bartley is returning to Swansea with his reputation and value enhanced and his future might be dictated by the outcome of Swansea’s fight to avoid relegation from the Premier League. The Welsh club allowed him to join Leeds on a season-long loan last July but handed him a 12-month extension to his deal at the time, committing him to the Liberty Stadium until the end of next season.
Asked if he wanted to re-sign the 25-year-old, Monk said: “Of course. Kyle’s been tremendous this season.
“Obviously I’ve got experience with Kyle and I know him very well, but he’d be the first to tell you that this has been by far his best season and by far his best progression as a footballer – the best football he’s ever played.”
Monk and Bartley were team-mates at Swansea for two years and Monk coached the defender after his appointment as City’s manager in 2014.
Bartley has made more than 100 league appearances during his career, but this season was his first full campaign, ending with a 50th outing for Leeds at Wigan.
He’d be the first to tell you that this has been by far his best season and by far his best progression as a footballer – the best football he’s ever played.Garry Monk on centre-half, Kyle Bartley
“He’s come on leaps and bounds, on and off the pitch,” Monk said. “There’s been improvement from everyone here and that’s a big stepping stone. It was important the club had that.”
Bartley was one of three players signed by Monk on loan from Swansea. Midfielder Matt Grimes and winger Mo Barrow are also returning to Wales after failing to make a significant impact at Elland Road.
Leeds, meanwhile, had a deal in place to sign Villarreal’s Alfonso Pedraza permanently for around £8m if the club were promoted from the Championship, but their failure to reach the play-offs has ended his stay in Yorkshire.
United’s other loanee, Hadi Sacko, has completed a season on loan from Sporting Lisbon and Leeds are still to decide whether to pursue a full-time deal for the Frenchman.