Leeds United: Evans has transfer window back-up plan if club loses out on Lafferty

Kyle Lafferty moves away from Souleymane Doukara.
Kyle Lafferty moves away from Souleymane Doukara.
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Steve Evans warned Norwich City that Leeds United would not be drawn into the permanent signing of Kyle Lafferty and said the club “had other options” after talks about the striker hit an impasse.

United’s head coach cast doubt over the prospect of him securing a key January target by revealing that Norwich were currently refusing to consider a deal to send Lafferty to Elland Road on loan.

Leeds want to take Lafferty on a temporary basis until the end of this season with a view to signing him permanently next summer.

But Evans’ hopes of a quick agreement have faltered with Norwich trying to remove the Northern Ireland international from their books.

Evans said United were not open to a full-time deal in January and claimed interest in Lafferty – also the subject of approaches from Palermo in Italy and Red Star Belgrade in Serbia – would “suddenly drop off” if Leeds made progress with alternative targets.

“We want it to be a loan deal with the option of a permanent,” Evans said. “Norwich City have respectfully said that they want it to be on a permanent. We’re not going to be doing it on a permanent initially.

“We want to be able, if it’s possible, to bring the player here but that’s proving very difficult. If it proves not to be the case then we’re not only thinking of Kyle Lafferty, there are other players we’re looking at.

“It’s not Kyle Lafferty or nobody. There are other options. If we take another option then the Kyle Lafferty interest will suddenly drop off.”

Evans insisted that United’s refusal to take Lafferty full-time immediately was not indicative of the club’s strategy or limitations this month.

Their first January signing – Liam Bridcutt from Sunderland on Tuesday – was made on an extended loan to the end of this season and Evans confirmed that he had been in touch with Stoke City and Aston Villa about recruiting striker Peter Crouch and midfielder Jack Grealish on temporary terms.

The Leeds boss, however, said United and owner Massimo Cellino were ready to fund permanent signings during the current window.

“We’re very much in a position to do permanent deals,” Evans said.

“When it gets to the top end of the permanent deals, and it’s no secret that if we were in a position to take Kyle Lafferty it would be at the top end, the only way we would look at it is to bring the player in, see how he fits in and adapts to being here – of course with a clear option to purchase at the end of it.

“That’s what we’d like to do with it.

“There are others which if we could get over the line we’d be happy to make permanent this afternoon. But they’re sometimes a little bit more difficult.”

Leeds are not only focused on offers to recruit new players. Centre-back Giuseppe Bellusci was linked with Italian Serie A side Verona earlier this week and Evans said United have rejected two bids for Bellusci from “overseas”.

The club will listen to offers for fringe players like Tommaso Bianchi and Casper Sloth, neither of whom have been seriously involved this season, but there is also a question mark over striker Mirco Antenucci.

The 31-year-old, who is out of contract in June and yet to hold any talks about a new deal, is the subject of interest from Ascoli, the Italian second-division side.

Sources at Leeds say Antenucci, whose partner is expecting their second child this month, is increasingly keen to return to Italy.

He has spent 18 months in England since joining United from Ternana.

United have not commented on Antenucci’s future but Evans said he wanted to keep the unpredictable Bellusci, a mainstay in the team in recent months after a controversial first season with Leeds.

“I know the club did turn down two offers from overseas for Peppe,” Evans said.

“From that perspective, either the value has not been reached or he’s a part of the plans. He’s certainly a big part of my plans from a football perspective. I’ve put names on a sheet of paper and said to the president: ‘I want these people to be here on the first of February’. Peppe was on that sheet.”

Evans, who saw the manager-of-the-month award for December bypass him this morning and go to Middlesbrough’s Aitor Karanka instead, expects his work in the market to “progress very quickly” after Premier League sides come through the third round of the FA Cup this weekend.

He was adamant, however, that Leeds would not stretch themselves financially, despite his desire to mount a late run to the Championship play-offs.

“You have to be patient and you have to get value of money,” he said.

“We come up with our intended targets and we attach to that what we believe the value would be.

“The minute it exceeds those values, you have to be strong enough to walk away.

“This club has been guilty in the past of overpaying.

“All clubs, including Leeds United, could go and sign players in the next half-hour but it’s very difficult to sign good players.

“We’ve already got a main core of 15, 16 talented boys.

“There’s no point in trying to sign more of the same – that’s why the club’s never cemented a promotion challenge in recent years.

“If the same’s not quite good enough then you have to add something to it.

“To date we’ve only signed Liam Bridcutt.

“And if, over the next four weeks, every player I sign brings the same enhancement to the team as Liam, we’ll be 50 per cent better going into February.”

Academy striker Robbie McDaid – recruited from Glenavon in 2014 and yet to play for the first team at Elland Road – is joining non-league Lincoln City on a half-season loan.