Leeds United head coach Steve Evans insisted today that Massimo Cellino had not ruled out further signings before transfer deadline but admitted certain targets might be “slipping away”.
Evans agreed with comments made by Cellino to Sky, in which United’s owner suggested that further arrivals this month were “unlikely”, but said the club were still pursuing deals ahead of Monday’s 11pm deadline.
Leeds have signed three players in this window, recruiting Liam Bridcutt and Mustapha Carayol on loan from Sunderland and Middlesbrough and bringing in Toumani Diagouraga for a fee of £575,000 from Brentford, but Evans’ hopes of making further additions appear to be fading.
United’s move for Diagouraga came 24 hours after Leeds sold right-back Sam Byram to West Ham United in a £3.7m deal, a departure which was expected to strengthen Evans’ hand in the market.
The Leeds boss wanted to add a new centre-back to his squad and is keen to strengthen his small group of strikers, a pool weakened by the recurrence of Chris Wood’s hamstring injury.
The forward underwent a scan this morning and is a major doubt for Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Bolton Wanderers.
In the past four weeks, Leeds have shown a keen interest in Norwich City striker Kyle Lafferty and Celtic midfielder Tom Rogic but Celtic resisted approaches from Elland Road and Evans indicated today that Norwich’s refusal to release Lafferty on loan had made that deal “drift”.
Questioned about Cellino’s remarks, Evans said: “I heard ‘unlikely’. If the president says there’s no more signings then there’ll be no more signings but the words I heard attributed to the president was ‘it was unlikely’. It was unlikely a week ago that we were going to sign the boy from Brentford (Diagouraga).
“He takes control of the financial situation so he knows how near we are. When he says it’s unlikely, he may feel that one or two things are slipping away from us. We’ll see where we go.
“Unlikely could be just a stage of negotiations rather than what actually happens. The president was still working (on a deal) on Tuesday night. Sometimes you make a bid and it’s not quickly accepted.
“My understanding is that we’ve got negotiations going on on several fronts. The president knows what stage they’re at and if he thinks it’s slipping then it would be unlikely.”
Evans, however, defender Cellino and said he had received “100 per cent” support from United’s owner - but admitted that he would be “disappointed” if he failed to add to his three recruits.
“One hundred per cent I’ve been supported by the president,” Evans said. “There’s no question of that.
“Would I be disappointed if we don’t add from now? Yes. But have I been backed and are we trying to get the players in who I’ve given on a sheet of paper? Yes we are.
“I’m a supporter too so the same level of disappointment with them would be the same with me. I’m under no illusions that I have to win matches as manager. Signing good players gives me an opportunity to do that.”
Evans said he was increasingly confident in the wake of Byram’s sale to West Ham that no other of United’s young players would be lost before Monday’s deadline.
Bournemouth have a long-standing interest in Lewis Cook and both Stoke City and Crystal Palace have had their attention turned to Charlie Taylor this month. Those players, like midfielder and current player-of-the-year Alex Mowatt, are all into the last 18 months of their contracts.
Evans said: “It’s not the time during a transfer window when people are speculating to go and say we’ll do X, Y or Z with them but people are misguided if they don’t think there are conversations going on with the representatives of those players. That will take the course it takes.
“Given the size of the bids we’ve had they’d have left already at most clubs. The president’s been outstanding and kept those players. He’s confided in me about the some of the bids and I’ve thought ‘wow’.
“I sit here and not for one second do I think about of our exciting youngsters will leave this club in this window.”