Inside Leeds United's crunch talks with Willy Gnonto and Luis Sinisterra as star duo set for return

Leeds United manager Daniel Farke has spoken of the conversations which have taken place this week between club officials and attacking pair Willy Gnonto and Luis Sinisterra which has allowed both to once again be considered for selection.
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Leeds visit Ipswich Town and could be without the likes of Ian Poveda, Dan James and Joe Gelhardt in their attacking positions due to minor injuries, but the return of Willy Gnonto and Luis Sinisterra to full team training this week will serve as a boost to United’s chances at Portman Road.

Both are expected to be named in the travelling squad which makes the journey to Suffolk, after conversations were had earlier this week with the goal of resolving their respective situations.

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First-team boss Farke says it is difficult to compare the two scenarios, but the German does appear to have taken a central role in resolving the conflict which had arisen concerning both players’ futures.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Wilfried Gnonto of Leeds United looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Cardiff City at Elland Road on August 06, 2023 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Wilfried Gnonto of Leeds United looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Cardiff City at Elland Road on August 06, 2023 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Wilfried Gnonto of Leeds United looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Cardiff City at Elland Road on August 06, 2023 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

"I think in general, you can’t compare the situation with Willy Gnonto and Luis Sinisterra,” Farke said during his pre-match press conference.

"There was a legal issue, a contractual issue, there was uncertainty and unclarity about his [Sinisterra’s] contractual situation and this has obviously distracted him and it was a difficult situation.

"I showed some leadership and said: ‘Listen, Luis we need your quality but as long as this situation is not sorted, it's not clear, it makes no sense because I need you to be really 100 per cent focused on training and the games.’”

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Sinisterra and Gnonto were both asked to train separately from the main Leeds group and neither were considered for selection ahead of last weekend’s home game with West Bromwich Albion.

"Meanwhile, since the beginning of the week, the situation is sorted,” Farke added on Thursday. “We have clarity about his contractual situation.

"We had a good chat with him and he's also now in a much better place and feels that he is clear in his head and ready to go, ready to work 100 per cent.

“We took him [Sinisterra] back into the dressing room, took him back into team training and it's good that we have a player of this quality back available.

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"He's an important player for me and also for my plans for the future.”

Farke went on to explain in detail how Gnonto’s situation was different to Sinisterra’s, as well as expanding on his own role in reprimanding the teenager, but also why he is willing to offer him a second chance after the submission of a transfer request last Friday.

“With Willy, it was a slightly different topic because I think there was a clear situation – he had no exit clause, no loan clause; there are no [such] clauses in his contract.

"We make the point that we won't let him go, we want to keep him and he had the decision that he didn't feel ready to play and refused, more or less, to play.

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"I had to take some leadership and said: ‘Okay listen, in such a situation you don't train with the group anymore, you train on an individual level and we can't let this situation stretch the group.’

“We were also pretty strict in our leadership and yes in the beginning of the week he came to see me in order to explain. He apologised, [saying] that he has made a mistake. He also spoke to our key people of our club [chief executive Angus Kinnear] – we’ve also had lots of support from them,” Farke said.

Gnonto is unlikely to receive a warm welcome from Leeds supporters given his perceived insubordination, but Farke succinctly explained why he is willing to offer the Italy international the opportunity to redeem himself, having been satisfied with his explanation.

The German suggested that at 19 years of age mistakes can be forgiven, making reference to the external advice Gnonto is likely to have been in receipt of.

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"I also liked the explanation of Willy, that he apologised and was asking if he could be involved back into team training. He's 100 per cent ready if I choose to pick him in the gameday squad. If I choose to pick him to play, he's 100 per cent ready to go and to fight and yes, for that my decision was to give him a second chance.

"We must not forget, we speak about a 19-year-old boy. I also have a bit of an understanding that he was attracted by some offers, because he's done really, really well on a personal level. He is an Italian international, obviously also thinks about his own career and also about his career in the national team.

"The reality is right now we're playing in the Championship and if he has some offers from the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A or whatever, that a young guy like him is attracted by this.

"What is not acceptable [is] that then he is not professional in order to say ‘okay, I'm not ready to play’, when we ask him to play. Then you have to show some steel and some resilience although you can understand that [it] is attractive, but not to play, it's not acceptable.”

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Farke went on to commend the unified front shown by key members of the club hierarchy, including chief executive Kinnear, who held talks with Gnonto on Monday, in addition to Farke’s chat with the teenager.

"I'm pretty grateful that we were all on one page and we were brilliant in these talks I have to mention especially Angus was also brilliant in these talks.

"I think when a player behaves like this, you have to make sure that as the club you're not blackmailed and you have to be even more strong.

"I think we all make mistakes at the age of 18-19 and when you're sometimes also getting some poor advice I can totally understand why the head of such a young player is perhaps attracted by an offer..

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"If Willy has learned his lesson, he has apologised, he has spoken about that there was a mistake, then I'm always open to give such young lads a second chance.

"We give him a second chance and he also knows 100 per cent, there is no third chance,” Farke added, finalising the disciplinary matter.

Gnonto is unlikely to be thrust back into the starting line-up this weekend, but is in contention to travel with the squad. His reception from the away fans is likely to be mixed but Farke hopes the Italian is capable of working hard to win back the affections of supporters, having taken the decision himself to forgive and move on from the issue.

Last season saw the 19-year-old become Elland Road’s darling figure. the light in the dark of a troubling season. Events this summer, in particular during the past fortnight, are likely to mean Gnonto enters a new phase in his Leeds career, one which will see him forced to prove his worth all over again.