Sam Byram’s career at Leeds United appeared to be nearing an end last night after the club accepted a £3.7m offer for him from Everton.
Byram is on the verge of quitting Elland Road following Everton’s decision to move in with a seven-figure bid for Leeds’ former player-of-the-year.
The Premier League side sent European scout Ian Atkins to watch Byram during Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat to Ipswich Town and have tempted United to cash in on him.
Byram’s exit was widely expected this month after Leeds failed with attempts to extend his contract, which expires at the end of this season.
Owner Massimo Cellino angered Byram’s camp last December by proposing a deal which would have cut the 22-year-old’s £12,000-a-week salary.
Byram rejected that offer out of hand and was publicly criticised by Cellino. The Italian accused Byram – the leading appearance-maker in United’s current squad after 143 games – of thinking “Leeds was too small for him” but contract talks resumed briefly two months ago after head coach Steve Evans asked Cellino to start fresh negotiations. Byram, however, rejected an offer to retain his existing wage and tie him down to the summer of 2017.
Evans has continued to use him in United’s Championship season but the club were prepared to sell Byram if their valuation of him was met. The club stood to earn around £2m in compensation if Byram remained at Elland Road until the end of his deal.
West Ham United were also interested in him but Everton’s bid is likely to prompt a rapid exit provided Byram agrees personal terms and passes a medical.
The youngster, who broke through from United’s academy unheralded in 2012 and won the club’s player-of-the-year award in his first full season as a professional, is unlikely to be considered for tomorrow’s game against Sheffield Wednesday.
Evans, who admitted before the transfer window opened that he would advise Leeds to sell Byram if he refused to accept a contract extention, is fighting to keep United’s season alive after the club slipped 12 points back from the Championship play-offs after their defeat to Ipswich.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s derby, Evans said: “The season’s a long way away from being over. I don’t have to tell the players that.
“I still maintain that if we win at Sheffield Wednesday and clubs above us drop points, we’re back in a much better position. And I know the type of fixtures a team like Ipswich have still got to face.
“We’ve come off an eight-match unbeaten run and we’ll look to go on another one. At the very least that will make sure that clubs above us have to take care of themselves. I’m not going to aim low.
“It’s like the FA Cup – if you say to me ‘how far do you want to go in the FA Cup?’ the answer is ‘I want to win it.’
“People will hear that and say ‘oh, here we go’ but it’s not my job to give up or to start short-changing people. Our supporters expect us to win games and I expect us to win games.”