At least we know now where Charlie Taylor wants to be. Somewhere other than Leeds United.
Why he wants to leave, his own rationale, is still not clear but his comments on Saturday – his expression of “100 per cent faith in my agent” – nailed any suspicion that the transfer request submitted by Taylor was reluctant, rash or coerced by other people.
His agent and Massimo Cellino can barely stand to speak to each other, a legacy of Sam Byram’s sale to West Ham, so there is no point in thinking that Leeds might find a way to break the ice over Taylor’s contract. The left-back is going and will be gone by next summer, barring a sea-change of ownership and outlook at Leeds. The dilemma for United is whether Taylor’s departure should be allowed to drag until then.
There are two facets to this debate – finance and performance. On one hand, the matter of maximising the value of a player who is on his way out and on the other, the pertinent question of how Taylor will fare for a club who are retaining him against his wishes. He was realistic enough to say over the weekend that if Leeds stand fast and refuse to sell him before the transfer window closes, that is their prerogative. This does not have hallmarks of Saido Berahino or football’s worst contract rebels but Leeds could do without the elephant in the room. Once with Byram was once too often.
In terms of money, Leeds need not feel too hard-pressed. They would earn more for Taylor now than they would in January, and more in January than they would from a tribunal fee in a year’s time, but they stand to earn from the 22-year-old regardless. Taylor’s only options of a free transfer next summer are via a move to the continent or north to a club like Celtic but those read like contrived destinations for a player who, like Byram before him, must fancy a stab at the Premier League. The trade-off for a tribunal fee is another season of appearances from an established and accomplished defender.
There was, no doubt, a time for selling Taylor in this transfer window but this is not it. Leeds realised in early July that a contract extension was highly unlikely. Cellino said as much on the day when United agreed to sell Lewis Cook to Bournemouth. They have known since Taylor’s transfer request on July 31 that he sees himself playing elsewhere. Those were junctures where Leeds could have cast the net and sought a buyer, with time to barter over valuation. Attempts to sell him now, seven days before the end of the window, would seem desperate and impulsive – an incentive for other clubs to squeeze Cellino on price.
The problem, too, is that Leeds cannot simply bank the money. They cannot defend this sale on the basis that the fee was too good to turn down. There is no other left-back at Leeds, or no-one as experienced or reliable as Taylor – not Gaetano Berardi while injuries bother him – and the loss of Taylor would break a hole in a team which Garry Monk is close to piecing together. United would be compelled to find a credible alternative at a stage of the window where values increase and selling clubs try to milk those buying. Common sense says Leeds have missed the boat if selling Taylor was on the agenda. It says that the club are already thin on the ground in his position.
Leeds, to give them their due, seem aware of their surroundings. Cellino has said from the outset that Taylor is not for sale and people close to him believe that he means it. Monk answers questions about Taylor’s future as if the possibility of Taylor leaving is completely off the table. Monk was philosophical about Lewis Cook, believing he could compensate in midfield, but you can see why the sale of Taylor would not appeal to him. Good left-backs are a rare commodity. They have been especially rare at Leeds over the years. Taylor helped to drag Leeds out of the era when Tony Capaldi and Fede Bessone made Elland Road shiver.
For Monk, it is all a matter of whether Taylor, with a transfer request behind him and speculation around him, can play as consistently or as well as he should week after week. Byram coped poorly with the same scrutiny on him but people who have worked with both players say Taylor is likely to manage it better.
His poor form as the season began drew inevitable accusations about effort and commitment but the reality was that Leeds started the season poorly en masse. Taylor has improved as Monk’s team have improved and his performance at Hillsborough on Saturday was more like the standard of United’s reigning player-of-the-year. It is late in the window and there is value left in this relationship. Taylor should stay.
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