Leeds United: End of the road for Bianchi as Ascoli make their move
Tommaso Bianchi's spell with Leeds United is over after Ascoli moved to take up their option to sign the midfielder permanently.
Ascoli have confirmed to the YEP that they are committed to taking Bianchi on a full-time basis after the 27-year-old completed the second half of last season on loan at the Serie B club.
He went back to Italy after mixed form and two operations saw him drop out of the first-team picture at Elland Road.
Bianchi - signed by United from Sassuolo in 2014 - played 24 times in his first season with Leeds but he damaged his knee towards the end of that campaign and required surgery on a cartilage problem the following summer.
His last appearance came in a 2-0 win at Reading in February 2015, the night when Bianchi injured a cruciate ligament, and Leeds have been keen to move him off the wage bill. He is halfway through a four-year deal.
Bianchi’s time with Ascoli began in dramatic fashion, with a red card on his debut against Cesena, but he helped the club to see off the threat of relegation from Serie B.
Ascoli agreed with Leeds that they would take Bianchi permanently if they avoided the drop and the midfielder, who was not present when Garry Monk’s players reported back to Thorp Arch for pre-season training on Monday, is expected to put pen to paper on a three-year deal.
Ascoli said they had negotiated a ‘fixed fee’ with United at the time when Bianchi finalised his loan.
A spokesperson for Ascoli told the YEP: “Ascoli Picchio has exercised the right of redemption and the player will remain with us outright.”
Bianchi was one of a clutch of 15 signings made by United during Massimo Cellino’s first transfer window as club owner. Nine of those have moved on from Elland Road and reports in Italy say Serie A side Empoli remain interested in signing centre-back Giuseppe Bellusci.
Bellusci has also missed the start of pre-season training at Leeds and is currently back home in Italy dealing with family matters but the defender has been touted for a move back to the Italian leagues for the past six months.
Verona were said to have bid £5m for him in January and Empoli are rumoured to be pushing Cellino for a deal to buy Bellusci out of a contract which ends in 2018.
Bellusci has made more than 50 appearances for United and was regularly involved last season but his stay at Elland Road has been chequered by controversy and former head coach Steve Evans dropped him for disciplinary reasons towards the end of the 2015-16 term.
Leeds want to add new centre-backs to their squad before the start of next term and new boss Garry Monk is pushing to sign Swansea City’s Kyle Bartley on loan.
Meanwhile, Under-21s midfielder Alex Purver and striker Frank Mulhern have signed new one-year contracts with the club.
Purver captained Leeds’ development squad last season, while Mulhern finished as joint top scorer.