MASSIMO CELLINO has affirmed his desire not to sell Leeds United’s star young players after prized asset Lewis Cook signed a new two-year deal with the club.
Cook has ended speculation regarding his future by agreeing fresh terms, with the teenager now contracted at United until the summer of 2017.
The 18-year-old, part of England’s European Under-17 Championship-winning squad last summer, made 38 appearances in a stellar 2014-15 season before an ankle ligament injury ended his campaign in late March.
Cook’s performances have marked him out as one of the hottest properties outside of the Premier League, with a host of top-flight clubs including Aston Villa and Newcastle United linked with moves for the talented York-born midfielder.
A new deal for Cook, who was nurtured in his formative years by Neil Redfearn during his time with the United Academy, comes as a welcome fillip for Leeds fans.
And chairman Cellino has stated his intent to hang onto United’s other highly-rated youngsters, including Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt and Charlie Taylor.
Cellino said: “My hope is for him to stay at Leeds for a long time and continue growing with Mowatt, Byram, Taylor and the others.
“We don’t want to sell.
“My plan for this club is to grow, not to sell our best young players.
“I have a lot of trust in the young players here.
“It is a special place for them and it has been for many years.
“Young players at other clubs say they love their club but they don’t really mean it. Here at Leeds, I can tell they mean it. The club is really in their hearts.
“That is what makes it different here and it can be something special.”
He added: “Lewis Cook deserves his new contract, he was one of the most exciting players last season.
“I knew we had a wonderful talent when I first saw him in the summer. At first, I thought he was much older than he was.
“He plays like he has lots of experience.
“Signing Lewis Cook is a good way to start the summer. We must be truly ready for the new season.”
Cook admits he is delighted to finally end speculation regarding his future by penning fresh terms and says he is ‘over the moon’ to finally put pen to paper.
Cook, named as the LFE’s Young Apprentice of the Year for the Championship at the Football League’s awards night recently and United’s young player of the year, said: I’m delighted to sign with Leeds United,
“I’ve really enjoyed this last season.
“There was a bit of speculation around it all, but as soon as I was told I was going to be signed, I did it.
“Hopefully a few more signings will be brought in to strengthen the team and next season could be great.
“I’ve been getting a lot of people asking me about my future and hopefully they will be happy.
“I’ve been injured, but I’m feeling a lot better now so I can really think about pre-season and try and kick on.
“I’m going to go away, rest and prepare for the new season.”