How Leeds United can use 'pure profit' technique to bank millions in tricky January transfer dilemma

Despite signing a long-term contract extension with Leeds United last summer, doubt has been cast over Charlie Cresswell's Elland Road future this season due to the 21-year-old defender's lack of game-time under Daniel Farke.

The player and his father have publicly expressed in recent weeks - via the medium of separate Instagram posts - their apparent displeasure at Cresswell's limited minutes in a Leeds shirt this season. The England youth international has not played for the Whites since October 4 when he was brought on as a stoppage time substitute in Leeds' 1-0 win over Queens' Park Rangers at Elland Road.

Since then, he has made the matchday squad on just three occasions and was left out entirely as Farke made six changes for the FA Cup Third Round tie with Peterborough United last weekend. Cresswell appeared a shoe-in to feature at London Road given injuries to Pascal Struijk and Liam Cooper but the Leeds boss chose instead to field Ethan Ampadu at centre-back alongside fellow Welsh international Joe Rodon, even though the former has featured in almost every single available minute this season.

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Several clubs are reported to have expressed an interest in Cresswell's services this month, but Leeds are likely to hold out for the high-potential defender's market value should an official approach be made. This is likely to be around the £4-5 million mark, which could price out potential suitors, including Ipswich Town, Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers.

"We will see," Farke said on Cresswell's situation and whether he stays this month. "He is proud and wants to play after being a main man at Millwall. [There is] Competition for places. [It's] Up to Charlie if he wants to take on this challenge and climb the ladder. If he wants something different, we will see. No coincidence we gave him a new contract. We have faith in him. [It is] Important he is happy with the challenge. On our side, there is no will to let him go."

If Leeds were to cash in on Cresswell, it's likely they would bring in a replacement to ensure Farke has four first-team central defensive options, but supporters are understandably keen to keep one of their own at Elland Road given his potential. Leeds are not exactly blessed with a catalogue of out-and-out central defenders, and should Rodon sustain a long-term injury, Cresswell is Farke's only natural, right-sided, senior option to replace him, unless the manager opts to deploy Ampadu further back. Given his imperious performances in central midfield, though, that is unlikely to be a popular move.

From a financial perspective, a Cresswell sale would give Leeds additional room to play with in their annual budget, firstly from the fee recouped but also in terms of Financial Fair Play (FFP) leeway. Since Cresswell is a player to come through Leeds' academy, there is no transfer fee to amortise if the player is sold. Typically, clubs will spread the cost of an incoming transfer across the length of a player's contract. For example, a £50 million signing who joins on a five-year deal will cost £10 million per season in the club's accounts, as opposed to the team reporting one outgoing lump sum of £50 million in their annual accounts that year.

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Academy players offer clubs a loophole of sorts, meaning the sale of youngsters to have graduated their own setup is 'pure profit', therefore offloading Cresswell would see Leeds bank several millions of pounds in their yearly accounting period for this season.

FFP states clubs are not permitted to make losses greater than £105 million over a three-year period. While the £4-5 million referenced above is not substantial in football terms, it would help Leeds somewhat live within their means during a season in which they are highly likely to make a loss.

Teams coming down from the Premier League tend to insert wage reduction clauses in their players' contracts, something Leeds did, in order to guard against financial insecurity in the event of relegation. However, the Whites' wage bill is still likely to be higher than the majority of Championship clubs, and TV revenue in the second tier is a fraction of what clubs earn in the top flight, meaning cost-savings must be found wherever possible.

The Cresswell situation is a tricky one to navigate for Farke and Leeds' higher-ups. While the manager insists Cresswell has not been into his office to ask for a move or at least an explanation for his lack of game-time, the player and his camp cannot be content with his minutes this season.

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From a financial standpoint, it would make sense to sell a 'pure profit' player who is not being used and unlikely to walk into the starting XI next season if Leeds are promoted. On the other hand, Cresswell is an England Under-21 international and remains a player with high potential, courted by several rival clubs and losing the youngster could come back to bite Leeds in future. For now, he remains contracted at Elland Road until the summer of 2027.

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