Swansea City boss Paul Clement might be talking a good fight and looking to play hardball over his loaned-out defender Kyle Bartley, who has made such an impression during his season-long stint at Leeds United.
But, especially now that the Swans’ Premier League status is assured, football economics and a dash of common sense will tend towards a conclusion that, if Leeds want Bartley - and if Bartley wants Leeds - then the situation will pan out towards a satisfactory conclusion for both player and the Elland Road club.
The fact is, despite Clement’s neat line about “welcoming Bartley home”, a lot will depend on where the player himself sees his future.
There is only one year left on Bartley’s Swans contract, and Leeds fans will be familiar with how that scenario usually ends, from bitter experience of seeing favourites leave Yorkshire a year early for a fee, or stick it out and walk for nothing. Whatever success the giant defender has enjoyed this Championship season, his potential as a Premier League performer is unclear. He’s likely to enjoy far more game time at Leeds, and on that account, as well as his friendship with United full-back Luke Ayling, would perhaps prefer a move to Yorkshire rather than signing an extended deal for the Welsh club.
As for Leeds, they’ve seen a highly promising central defensive partnership develop between the mighty Bartley and Swedish colossus Pontus Jansson; they’re more likely to be looking at supplementing those positions by the acquisition of quality deputies, to provide the strength in depth lacking in the campaign just ended, rather than losing one pillar of a towering twin rearguard. There’ll be more talking to be done, of course, both between the clubs and in the press so that the fans can see how serious and committed their managers are. But at the end of the day, money talks - and Swansea would be better off banking a fee for a player they could otherwise lose for nothing next May. Whatever claims and counter-claims fly back and forth, the only real work to be done is likely to be a bit of dickering over money.
If I were a betting man (and my bank manager is grateful that I’m not), my cash would be on Bartley signing for Leeds permanently, or at least securing another loan, with an option to buy - perhaps in the January 2018 transfer window.
It should be a busy summer ahead, with a new sole owner, the maverick element of club ownership most likely gone, and some significant backroom talent already recruited. But the retention of this season’s centre-back partnership will be seen as an important part of all that and I, for one, would be extremely surprised to see Kyle Bartley in a Swansea shirt when next season kicks off.
We keep hearing that talks are planned between current co-owner Andrea Radrizzani and manager Garry Monk, following which, presumably, the club’s backroom situation should be further clarified. It’s former Swans boss Monk who is so keen to retain the services of Bartley, and doubtless he will have further items on his shopping list. He really needs to lay his exact requirements on the line. When Howard Wilkinson breezed into Leeds in 1988, with the club in the lower reaches of Division Two and heading downwards, he interviewed the board just as much as they interviewed him. Only when satisfied that the club’s ambitions matched his own did Wilko commit himself – and four years later, United were Champions of England. A similarly proactive approach from Monk now might perhaps not yield quite the same harvest; but it would show the club that he is serious about taking the Yorkshire giants back where they belong.