Leeds United: Forestieri ‘reluctant’ to move to Elland Road

Fernando Forestieri, left.
Fernando Forestieri, left.
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A bid by Leeds United to sign Fernando Forestieri is in the balance after the striker was named in Watford’s squad against Southampton yesterday.

Forestieri unexpectedly appeared on the bench at Vicarage Road amid claims that he is reluctant to take up the offer of a move to Elland Road.

Leeds and Watford have reached an agreement over a fee for Forestieri, leaving a decision over the move in the hands of the 25-year-old

Massimo Cellino negotiated the deal personally with Watford’s owners, the Pozzo family, and he is ready to pay a fee of more than £3million for Forestieri, despite indicating last week that Leeds could not afford to finance a realistic bid.

The Elland Road club have already invested more than £4m in Chris Wood and Stuart Dallas this summer but Forestieri was in line to become their third major investment of the transfer window.

Leeds had hoped to finalise the signing in the next few days but they are yet to agree personal terms with Forestieri and the move remains some way from completion.

Forestieri is rumoured to be looking for a club in the south of England.

He was put up for sale by Watford after failing to feature in their first two Premier League matches. Leeds are one of a number of clubs, including Sheffield Wednesday and Reading, who have made an approach for him.

Watford sporting director Nicola Salerno – employed by Cellino in the same capacity at Elland Road last season – is understood to have been involved in negotiations over Forestieri’s future.

Salerno attended last weekend’s goalless draw between Reading and Leeds and was pictured with Cellino at the Madejski Stadium.

Forestieri, meanwhile, was spotted at Queens Park Rangers’ win over Rotherham United on Saturday while Leeds were fighting out a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday.

The forward is a close friend of QPR’s Alejandro Faurlin.

Forestieri has played in England for the past two-and-a-half years, signed by Watford from Udinese, another club owned by the Pozzo family.

His record shows 18 goals in 75 appearances for Watford and he featured heavily in their promotion from the Championship last term.

The Vicarage Road club have made numerous additions to their squad, however, and Forestieri is surplus to requirements.

Watford have used him in a variety of a positions and his arrival at Leeds would offer versatility to a head coach in Uwe Rosler who is anxious to secure more attacking options before the transfer window closes on September 1.

Leeds initially asked to take Forestieri on loan but Watford were reluctant to release the forward on a temporary basis. Forestieri is midway through a lengthy five-and-a-half year deal and is tied to Vicarage Road until 2018.

Rosler refused to discuss the proposed deal after Saturday’s draw with Wednesday, saying: “I can’t tell you what is agreed or not agreed with Watford.

“I can tell you that Mr Cellino last season used his personal money to buy off all the debt so from this summer the club can move on.

“I wasn’t aware we could (sign) Chris Wood.

“Mr Cellino wants this club to do very well and he wants to back me and support me to bring in the right player at the right price at the right age. The signings show that. They’re all in the same bracket. Forestieri, who you spoke about, he’s 25, yes? So ...”

In a separate development, Belgian winger Anthony Limbombe could be edging closer to a switch to Elland Road after NEC Nijmegen left him out of their squad for a league game against Ajax on Saturday.

United have failed with an initial bid of £1.5m for Limbombe but discussions between the clubs continued last week while Cellino was pursuing the signing of Forestieri.

A statement from NEC said Limbombe was “insufficiently focused” due to interest in him from Elland Road. “Therefore he has no place in the squad,” the statement added.

The Dutch club, however, confirmed yesterday that they are yet to receive an improved offer from United.