Angus Kinnear interview - part two: Leeds United rejected £35m worth of bids, strengthened and addressed Financial Fair Play requirements
Rejecting bids totalling £35m for key players was part of Leeds United’s three-fold plan they feel has resulted in a successful summer transfer window .
The Whites knocked back offers for Kalvin Phillips, Adam Forshaw, Luke Ayling and Pablo Hernandez, a quartet who were central to promotion hopes.
At the same time they shipped out a raft of fringe players and sold Kemar Roofe, Pontus Jansson and Bailey Peacock-Farrell, which helped keep them in line with the EFL’s Profit and Sustainability rules.
And thirdly, they believe they’ve strengthend Marcelo Bielsa’s squad by bringing in marquee signing Helder Costa, alongside loanees Ben White, Jack Harrison, Jack Clarke, Illan Meslier and Eddie Nketiah.
To that end, managing director Angus Kinnear says the summer window has gone to plan, particularly when it came to fending off interest in star players.
On that, many fans will agree; there was jubilation on Thursday afternoon when it became clear, thanks to the player’s agent, that Phillips would not only be staying put but opening dialogue with the club over a new contract.
Retaining the midfield linchpin and other first team stalwarts was vital for Leeds and Kinnear insists they had to show serious mettle to do so.
“Our first priority this window was around who we kept,” he said.
“It’s an occupational hazard if you finish third, like we did, then clubs in the Championship will look at the players you’ve got and say they’re capable of securing promotion and clubs in the Premier League are going to look and say there are players capable of stepping up.
“Now if you get promoted you can retain those players, if you don’t you’re in a position where you’re open to offers.
“If you look at the single biggest bids we’ve received for players, we’ve received over £35m worth of bids.
“If you take the biggest bid for Kalvin, Adam Forshaw, Luke, Pablo, there’s £35m we’ve turned down.”
Kinnear singled Phillips out in particular for the way in which he’s conducted himself during a summer of relentless transfer speculation – Aston Villa made a serious attempt to prise him from Elland Road, while fellow Premier League new boys Sheffield United were also among his admirers – but the MD feels the club have also done well in bucking a Championship trend.
“Kalvin has been fantastically loyal because he’s obviously had his head turned by financial offers from other clubs but he’s remained committed and wants to play in the Premier League with Leeds United,” said Kinnear.
“We wanted to keep all the players we thought would be central to us getting promoted.
“If you look at the players we’ve retained and overlay Marcelo as well, because he could have left, versus what’s happened across the rest of the league, even teams that should be doing quite well financially; Swansea have sold McBurnie and James for £30m, Bristol City have sold Webster and Kelly for £35m, Brentford have sold Maupay and Konsa for £30m, Birmingham have sold Che Adams for £15m – that is the nature of the league we’re in.”
Leeds’ second priority was adding quality to the team who came so close to promotion and Kinnear feels they’ve done that.
Then there’s the Bielsa factor; the Argentine coach is certain he can squeeze more out of his squad.
“Look at the window as a whole, we’ve retained who we wanted to retain, we’ve been aggressive in meeting Proft and Sustainability requirements by streamlining fringe elements of the squad and I think the players we’ve brought in will strengthen the team, not least Helder Costa,” said Kinnear.
“When we sat down with Marcelo and looked at where we’d potentially fallen short last year we felt it was for the need of an exceptional player who could bring that bit of magic to create a chance or score a goal to get us a victory, in the games we struggled.
“Rather than invest in three good players we went out and were very ambitious to sign a player I think is a Premier League player.
“When you overlay that with the fact Marcelo believes all of the players can be better than they were last season, particularly he’s excited about some of the players having breakout seasons.
“You speak of Tyler Roberts, Jamie Shackleton, Jack Harrison, Jack Clarke, all of whom played a reasonable amount of football, they’re all clearly exceptional talents.
“We think if those players continue on the progression they’ve already made, alongside the new players we’ve brought in the team should be stronger than it was last season.”
The Whites’ summer business could not be conducted without a very respectful nod in the direction of Financial Fair Play.
Birmingham City’s nine-point deduction for breaching Profit and Sustainability rules was a warning shot across the bows of Championship clubs.
Leeds, Kinnear says, took it very seriously and that’s the reason for what could be described as an exodus from Elland Road.
“It’s difficult to discuss this without talking about Profit and Sustainability,” he said.
“It wasn’t until Birmingham received a sporting penalty of nine points, that could have been 12, that everybody sat up and said this is really serious.
“I don’t think any club, I was looking yesterday, has been a net spender, or if they have it’s marginal.
“We needed to streamline the squad to meet P&S and move away from the model where we had players we were developing and potentially trying to trade.
“If you look at players like Ideguchi, Sacko and Ekuban, all of whom we thought had potential for Leeds United or to be sold on at profit, we can no longer have those players under these rules.
“If you look at the sales we’ve made, 95 per cent of them are fringe players who weren’t going to contribute to the first team this season.
“All of our decisions are a balance between financial propriety and trying to meet P&S with trying to achieve sporting success.
“We think we’ve brought ourselves back within the P&S rules by those sales without damaging the sporting side at all.
“I think most of the supporters would agree those sales have achieved that.”
The two sales that perhaps wouldn’t sit so well with supporters are those of Jansson and Roofe, both so influential in last season’s near brush with glory.
Kinnear’s response is that Leeds only agreed to both deals because they felt they could adequately replace them with White and Nketiah.
White, he says, was pointed out to him two years ago when Leeds took on Newport County and the defender is seen as an ‘exceptional talent’ by those in charge at Elland Road., who arrived
Nketiah, who arrived today from Arsenal in a season-long loan, was deeemed the final piece of the puzzle.
And now that the transfer window is closed, Kinnear looks back on it with a measure of satisfaction.
“For a variety of reasons we’ve sold two first team players in Kemar and Pontus,” he said.
“They were done on the strict understanding we felt we could bring in great players who could play to the same level or improve on them.
“For us the window has gone well.”