Charlie Taylor voiced disappointment at the imminent departure of Sam Byram from Leeds United and said his exit would be a “huge loss” with the right-back close to joining Everton.
Byram is weighing up a move to Goodison Park having travelled to Merseyside for talks with Everton yesterday.
Leeds received a £3.7million bid for their one-time player-of-the-year on Thursday and despite Byram attracting firm interest from West Ham United, Everton’s offer is the only one which owner Massimo Cellino has accepted.
Sources at Elland Road say Byram is taking time to consider his options and was due to report in for training at Thorp Arch this morning.
Byram was primed for a transfer by Cellino this month after he turned down an extension his contract, a deal which expires at the end of this season.
Head coach Steve Evans left Byram out of yesterday’s 2-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough and said he had done so at Byram’s request with a transfer to Everton on the cards.
Taylor, United’s left-back and a player who Byram followed out of the club’s academy at Thorp Arch, said he would be losing a “close friend” in Byram – but insisted he was confident that Leeds would sell no more of their more valuable players in the January window.
Taylor and young midfielders Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt are all in the final 18 months of their existing contracts and have yet to agree extensions.
Leeds stood to receive around £2m in compensation for Byram if he saw out his deal and left in the summer but Cellino chose to auction him now after failing with a final offer to extend his terms before Christmas.
Taylor said: “Sam was a different situation with his contract. I can’t see anyone else going and the only thing I can see is probably strengthening now in January.
“I just wish him the best of luck. It’s a great opportunity for him and I wish him all the best for the rest of his career.
“Every player is different but obviously everyone at the club would have loved to have seen Sam stay.
“He’s a brilliant player, one who brings so many attributes to the team, but we have to get on with it and maybe we can use some of the money to bring other players in. He’s a huge loss but we should try and replace him as well as we can.”
Taylor and Byram rubbed shoulders at Thorp Arch for more than 10 years. Taylor made his senior debut for Leeds in 2011, 12 months before Byram’s spectacular first-team breakthrough.
“Sam’s got all the attributes and I’ve grown up with him,” Taylor said.
“I’ve played with him since I was 10 and he’s a fantastic player – one who I don’t think will have any troubles (in the Premier League). There’s nothing to say he can’t go in there and perform.”
Today’s negotiations between Byram and Everton were arranged ahead of yesterday’s derby at Hillsborough and the 22-year-old, who trained with Leeds on Friday morning, was not present in Sheffield.
Evans said he would expect Byram to report for training tomorrow morning if a move to Everton was not in the process of being finalised but the defender, who has made 143 appearances for Leeds, looks to have made his last outing for the Elland Road club.
Evans said: “All I know is that the clubs have agreed a deal.
“Sam asked himself to be excused and it was a simple decision for me.
“I want players that are fully concentrated on the game and at it, and wherever that (his move to Everton) goes, it goes. If it doesn’t conclude he’ll be at Thorp Arch (today).”