'Deal agreed' - Leeds United's Championship promotion rivals suffer huge early blow as 'brilliant' star to leave

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Leeds United and Luton Town will be battling for automatic promotion next season.

Leeds United’s likely promotion rivals for next season have suffered an early blow to their hopes with reports suggesting Ross Barkley will leave Luton Town fir free.

Barkley joined Luton following their promotion to the Premier League last season and enjoyed an excellent individual season, despite his side’s struggles. The 30-year-old reinvented himself as a deeper-lying midfielder at Kenilworth Road but nine goal contributions could not stave off a return to the second-tier.

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That form has caught the interest of established Premier League clubs, however, with Aston Villa thought to be interested in Barkley. And Football Insider now reports that a move to Villa Park is closing in after the club and player agreed on a two-year contract with the option of a further 12 months.

Barkley had originally signed a one-year contract with a one-year extension at Luton but could now be leaving for nothing, with the report adding that a clause in his deal allows him to leave for free in the event of relegation. Villa opened talks with the player directly earlier this month and could soon land their man.

Barkley is known to Leeds fans, having spent a short period on loan at Elland Road from Everton in 2013. The midfielder only made four appearances for United and failed to register a single goal before returning to Goodison Park.

Bengal Brasserie Arena Quarter – serving authentic Indian cuisine in the heart of the city. Proudly supporting Leeds United and the YEP.

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The Toffees academy graduate also featured on loan at Sheffield Wednesday that season but spent the majority of his career on Merseyside or at Chelsea. A brief temporary spell at Villa during the 2020/21 campaign did not go as planned and the England international spent one season at French outfit OGC Nice before joining Luton last summer.

Barkley’s exit would be a major blow for the Hatters going into the summer, with the midfielder’s experience and creativity crucial to keeping survival hopes alive for much of this season. To lose him for nothing would also raise questions, given form this season led to clamour for an England call-up.

"We certainly love him and what he's doing for us at the moment is brilliant,” Edwards said of a potential return to the international scene. “The fans love him. Some of his performances you would pay to watch and that's been great because it is an entertainment business and we want to try to be entertaining while winning football matches. It is difficult all of the time, but players like Ross help."

Luton are among the early favourites to challenge for automatic promotion next season, with the added benefit of parachute payments to come following their relegation. The Hatters will expect to challenge Leeds for a top-two finish and will pose a major threat to United’s promotion hopes.

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Leeds are facing another year of second-tier football after losing 1-0 against Southampton in Sunday’s Championship play-off final. Those in charge at Elland Road are now also running the risk of losing key players, although they will hope to bring in decent money if any stars are sold.