FULHAM are leading the race to sign Leeds United captain Ross McCormack and could finalise a deal to sign the Scottish international this week.
The Scot didn’t travel with his team-mates to United’s pre-season training camp at Santa Cristina in northern Italy this morning amid fresh speculation regarding his future, having reportedly told owner Massimo Cellino of his desire to leave the club at a face-to-face meeting last week.
The Cottagers saw a bid in the region of £5m turned down for the 27-year-old in the middle of June, but were fully expected to improve their offer in their quest to land the prized forward, who has also been linked with a move to Norwich City.
The Canaries, with money to spend following relegation and with their transfer kitty set to be swelled further by the impending sale of ex-United winger Robert Snodgrass to Hull City, are in the market for another frontline striker, despite the seven-figure signing of Lewis Grabban from Bournemouth.
West Ham are believed to have retained a level of interest, despite seeing a bid to sign McCormack rebuffed in January, with Newcastle United having also been linked with the 27-year-old this summer.
But Fulham have stolen a significant march on their rivals and are expected to beat off competition to sign him.
Meanwhile, Paddy Kenny’s future is also away from Leeds, with the veteran goalkeeper not travelling out to Italy for their pre-season training camp.
Kenny has a year left on his contract at Elland Road and is expected to consider his options in the coming weeks before deciding on his future, with United strongly linked with a move for Italian custodian Marco Silvestri, 23 once their transfer embargo is lifted.
The former Italy U-20 custodian made his Serie A debut in April while on loan at Cellino’s former club Cagliari, with his playing rights owned by Chievo and he is believed to be close to sealing a move to Leeds.
Hockaday says he is confident Leeds will be able to bring in ‘two or three’ players shortly, with the club working on getting their transfer embargo lifted with their bank account no longer frozen.
The summer transfer window formally opens on July 1, with the club continuing to be linked with several other players in the Italian media.
Hockaday said: “What I do know in football is that until pen is put to paper officially and things are recognised and registered, it would be unprofessional of me to comment on anything.”
A total of 20 United players flew out to Italy on Monday morning, with the other notable absentee along with McCormack and Kenny being Rudy Austin, although the club and player are hoping he will be able to join the group in the coming days.
Also missing from the trip are injured duo Alex Mowatt and Scott Wootton, with youngsters Lewis Cook, Jake Skelton, Chris Dawson and Lewis Walters included in the party.
United will head straight into training this evening at Santa Cristina and over the next fortnight will be faced with three sessions a day.
During their time in Italy, United will play two games against local sides, fielding a totally different starting XI in the first half and second half of each game – with every player getting 90 minutes under their belts.
Pleased with the response of players to him in training so far, head coach Dave Hockaday added: “We have cranked it up. Their attitude on the first day (Thursday) was a little bit of uncertainty, as it would be on the first day with a new head coach. But the first day was super. And on the second day, there was a big lift for me; we’ve made massive strides in the two days, but we’ve a long, long way to go.”