Phil Hay: How the last week of the transfer window may pan out for Leeds United

Rob Green, centre, looks like staying at Elland Road.
Rob Green, centre, looks like staying at Elland Road.
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Moves are afoot to realign the summer transfer window and this season could be the last where clubs in England spend August 31 chasing their tails.

The Premier League and the Football League are exploring the possibility of closing the window before the start of each season and officials from all 24 Championship sides will meet to discuss the options next month, but the status quo gives Leeds United seven days to finalise their squad for the first half of this term.

Caleb Ekuban.

Caleb Ekuban.

Leeds have made 12 first-team signings – a tally which includes midfielder Ouasim Bouy, now on loan at Cultural Leonesa in the Spanish second division, and development-squad midfielder Madger Gomes – but their £15m sale of Chris Wood to Burnley should prompt no fewer than two arrivals before the deadline passes at 11pm on Thursday. This week’s Inside Elland Road looks at the likely developments at Elland Road:

Goalkeepers

The only question mark concerns Rob Green and the closer the club get to the deadline, the less inclined they are to let him go. Leeds have been conscious of the fact that Green, now 37, is losing precious career time as a substitute but Thomas Christiansen wants to keep him and Green’s departure would leave United searching for another senior goalkeeper.

The club have Bailey Peacock-Farrell on their books and intend to keep him at Elland Road in this window, despite having lined him up for a loan to Oldham in July. Marco Silvestri’s subsequent move to Hellas Verona and the death of the emergency loan window means Leeds cannot risk pressing on towards January with only two keepers to lean on. Green’s exit would depend on one of two things: an offer arriving which Leeds feel is in their financial interests or a chance arising which the club believes too good to stop Green from taking. Middlesbrough’s interest waned after the arrival of Darren Randolph from West Ham United and Sunderland – another side who were watching Green – signed Jason Steele before the season began. There are relatively few teams in urgent need of a new number one.

Thomas Christiansen.

Thomas Christiansen.

Centre-backs

Matthew Pennington, United’s loanee from Everton, was expected to be one of two central defenders recruited this summer but Leeds have all but suspended their search, despite Pennington injuring an ankle on the first weekend of the season.

The 22-year-old is still wearing a protective boot and is expected to return at some stage next month, but the form of Liam Cooper alongside Pontus Jansson and the unexpected emergence of Conor Shaughnessy as a fourth option have, in Christiansen’s words, made him “comfortable with what I have” at centre-back. There were speculative discussions earlier in the window about Krystian Bielik, Arsenal’s Polish 19-year-old who spent time on loan at Birmingham City last season, but Leeds do not look likely to devote any more of their budget to that area of their team.

Speaking on Monday, Christiansen said: “We’ve been talking a lot about the centre-back position but I feel comfortable with what I have.

Souleymane Doukara.

Souleymane Doukara.

“Liam Cooper, he had been criticised at least from what I’ve heard over a few years here but what he’s given the team, the confidence and how he’s performed, I’m very happy. From my point of view, he’s improved. With Pontus, Pennington and now Conor, I believe we have four good centre-backs. It’s not a priority to bring another one in.”

Midfielders

The most overloaded part of Christiansen’s squad and one which was always going to see outgoings rather than incomings in the final stages of the window.

Liam Bridcutt, United’s club captain last season, joined Nottingham Forest for around £1m on Tuesday, signing a three-year deal at the City Ground after losing his grip on a first-team place. Toumani Diagouraga – a £575,000 signing from Brentford 18 months ago but a largely forgotten presence at Leeds – does not even have a squad number and will leave Elland Road shortly.

He and United are both willing to sever the remaining 12 months on his contract and an agreement over a termination would give him the chance to find another club as a free agent. He finished last season on loan at Ipswich Town and is likely to remain in the Championship.

Strikers

This is where the pressure lies. Leeds want at least two new strikers and might stretch beyond that if more of their preferred options become available at the right price. Caleb Ekuban’s injury has upped the ante and he could be looking at an extended absence with an injured foot bone. The Ghanaian was on crutches at Tuesday’s League Cup win over Newport.

One bid for Rudy Gestede, believed to be worth £6m, has been rejected by Middlesbrough but Leeds are likely to return with a second offer and Gestede fits part of their criteria: a striker with Championship experience who can play in the lone centre-forward role perfected by Wood last season. There are ample alternatives about, such as Preston’s Jordan Hugill and Norwich City’s Nelson Oliveira. None of those players will come cheap but Leeds pulled in £15m from the sale of Wood to Burnley.

United, as they have all summer, are also scanning the continental market and reached a quick deal on Tuesday to sign NEC Nijmegen’s Jay-Roy Grot, a tank of a 19-year-old who stands at 6’3” tall and has been capped by Holland’s Under-19s. Fiorentina tried to sign him earlier in the summer, ultimately refusing to meet NEC’s valuation, but Leeds have agreed to pay a £1.5m fee and should tie up the transfer in the next 24 hours.

Going through the exit door today was Souleymane Doukara, an enigmatic player who had some notable peaks and troughs at Leeds. There was interest in him amongst Turkish, Italian and English clubs – Barnsley being one – and Osmanlispor signed him on a two-year deal after United agreed to sever his contract. Doukara’s absence from yesterday’s tie against Newport, a fixture he was supposed to feature in, was confirmation of his impending exit.

BACK IN BUSINESS: Leeds United striker Caleb Ekuban. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

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