Steve Evans revealed that two Premier League managers were in touch with him about Sam Byram as the January transfer window opened – but warned that Leeds United would not be talked into a cut-price deal for the in-demand youngster.
Byram, who was heavily linked with West Ham United last week and has attracted attention from Aston Villa, is the subject of growing interest in his signature with Leeds ready to cash-in on a bid which meets their current valuation of him.
The 22-year-old is out of contract in the summer – a stage at which Leeds would be due a seven-figure fee in compensation due to his age – and the Elland Road club have failed with attempts to renegotiate and extend his £12,000-a-week deal.
Speaking after yesterday’s 1-1 draw with MK Dons, a match which Byram started, Evans said a decision on whether to accept individual offers for Byram would be left to owner Massimo Cellino and insisted that he would not be disappointed if January passed without a successful bid for him.
United’s head coach indicated after a recent game at Nottingham Forest that Leeds valued Byram in the region of £5m and Evans said the financial situation at Elland Road was stable enough to prevent a cheap sale.
“It’s no secret that Sam has lots of Premier League interest,” Evans said.
“In the past 48 hours a couple of head coaches or managers have asked me about his character.
“I’ve said publicly, and I’ve said to them privately, that he’s a fantastic young professional.
“If the deal was right for the club, that would lie at the president’s door. As a head coach I don’t want him going anywhere but if he does go then I have to work with the club to make sure the money which comes in is invested.
“I’m hoping he’ll still be here because there’s a difference to asking about his character and agreeing a deal. We’re not backed into the corner like half of the Championship who could do with a few million to ease the bank off. We’re not in that position.”
Byram is the leading appearance-maker in United’s squad but his departure from Elland Road has looked likely ever since the start of December when he rejected an offer to extend his existing deal to the summer of 2017.
Evans is focusing more heavily on incoming players and the United boss said one of his known targets – Norwich City’s striker Kyle Lafferty – was present at Elland Road during yesterday’s 1-1 draw with MK Dons.
Lafferty, a Northern Ireland international and a close friend of Leeds winger Stuart Dallas, is expected to leave Norwich this month after failing to feature significantly in the first half of the club’s season.
“I understand Kyle Lafferty watched the game,” Evans said. “He must have bought a ticket!
“He’s a Norwich player and the clubs are having a chat. We’ll see where it goes.”
Leeds extended their run to seven matches without defeat yesterday but a disappointed Evans found little comfort in a disjointed performance against an MK Dons side who are fifth from bottom in the Championship.
The result came on the back of victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Preston North End before Christmas and draws with Nottingham Forest and Derby County on December 27 and 29 respectively.
“We had good spells against Preston, even though it was hard work,” Evans said.
“Against Wolves we were exceptional after 20, 25 minutes and at Forest we were excellent throughout the game. With Derby we went toe-to-toe with a really good side so if I’m going to defend my players then this might just have been a stretch too far in terms of the same players going out and delivering.”