Leeds United assistant manager Mick Jones has admitted that bids for top scorer Luciano Becchio and teenage prodigy Sam Byram are almost certain to arrive before the January transfer window shuts.
But Neil Warnock’s second in command expects both players to remain at Elland Road beyond the end of this month, despite indicating that firm offers for their signatures were likely.
Jones warned of an anxious period ahead after Becchio’s 19th goal of the season earned Leeds a 1-1 draw and FA Cup third-round replay with Birmingham City on Saturday.
The winners of that replay, which will take place at St Andrew’s a week tomorrow, will entertain Tottenham Hostspur in the fourth round.
Becchio, whose contract runs until the summer of 2014, has played a crucial role in keeping Leeds in touch with the Championship play-offs and he was linked with a £4million move to Wigan Athletic in the days leading up to the January window.
Jones said: “Luciano’s hot property at the moment. Common sense tells you that. I’d be worried if certain clubs came in for him, in this country and out of this country.
“If they do come in then it’s going to create a big problem for Leeds United so we hope we can get Luciano sorted out (with a new deal).
“He’s got a great affinity with the club, the fans love him and if I was him then I’d stay because I’m loved here. His next step is a dangerous step. He could go and become unloved very quickly because the price tag would put immense pressure on him. But I’ve got to say, I’m more worried about players leaving the club than I am about players coming in.”
While Becchio’s goals are underpinning United’s campaign, 19-year-old Byram has been the find of the season after emerging unheralded from United’s Under-18 squad to become a first-team regular overnight.
Byram came off the bench on Saturday to help salvage a low-key display from Leeds and his consistently impressive form has attracted the interest of several Premier League sides, Everton and Liverpool among them.
Warnock has been given assurances by new Leeds owners GFH Capital that he will not be under pressure to sell his better players this month, and Jones said: “Personally I don’t think Sam will go because he’s better off with us at the moment. But I think there’ll be some pressure on us (from other clubs) to sell him.
“It’s not a test for the owners. It’s common sense. Let’s just say that Manchester United come in for Sam and offer £10million.
“He’s going to go, there’s no two ways. You can’t stop him from joining Man Utd and you can’t turn down £10million. That’s a fact and you’ve got to live with the facts.
“In a perfect world he’s going nowhere but I know football and it’s a pressurised industry. If Man Utd, Tottenham, Liverpool or Arsenal want Sam Byram then somehow they’ll get him. That’s something you’ve got to live with.
“All the top clubs are watching Sam and it would be daft if they weren’t. If you’ve got good players, everyone else wants them. But we’ve got to keep them, no doubt in my mind, and I think we will.”