It was suggested by Angus Kinnear, Leeds United’s managing director, that the conclusion of the World Cup would bring the domestic transfer window to life as international football took its leave of the game’s agenda in Moscow last night.
“Slow and steady” was Kinnear’s description of United’s transfer dealings 10 days ago and the club are typical of a sluggish air in the Championship. Nottingham Forest have gone to town with multiple signings, among them the £6m purchase of striker Lewis Grabban, and Middlesbrough put up the same sum to lure centre-back Aden Flint from Bristol City. Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion made good starts with Benik Afobe and Sam Johnstone but the division’s teams largely held fire for the duration of the World Cup.
The frustration at Elland Road is that United’s progress has not been intentionally slow. They have rather found themselves hitting dead ends. Their recruitment team spent much time engaging free agent Abel Hernandez but ultimately saw the cost of taking him as too high. A week ago, having set a deadline for Derby County and Matej Vydra to agree to a move, Vydra’s representatives came back to them with an increased wage demand and all but ended that deal.
Leeds have left the door open to Hernandez and Vydra in the event that either player is willing to revise their personal terms, and neither has attracted significant interest from elsewhere.
Hernandez, amid recent talk of an offer from CSKA Moscow, remains unattached more than a fortnight after his contract at Hull City ended and the Uruguayan is understood to want to stay in England.
But in the past seven days Leeds have begun approaching other domestic forwards in an attempt to fill the area of Marcelo Bielsa’s squad, beyond that of a goalkeeper, which looks weakest on paper. United’s board were ready to sanction Vydra’s arrival for a total fee of around £11m and are now looking to use that money to provide the presence and finishing which was sorely lacking last season.
Leeds are currently working on at least one more addition from the top flight and, despite various setbacks, expect four or five new recruits to materialise.Phil Hay
The alternative strikers interesting them are most likely to be permanent recruits, though sources at Elland Road have ruled out Aston Villa’s Jonathan Kodjia and Middlesbrough’s Britt Assombalonga as targets. The club, however, are also knocking on the door of Premier League sides in search of deals.
Lewis Baker, the England Under-21 midfielder, arrived from Chelsea a fortnight ago – Leeds’ only signing to date – and goalkeeper Jamal Blackman should join today after undergoing a medical over the weekend.
The bid for Blackman, another Chelsea academy product who spent last season with Sheffield United, was symptomatic of a trend at Leeds of targets and negotiations running into difficulty. The 24-year-old was on United’s list of potential options early in the summer but behind the names of Angus Gunn and David Stockdale. Gunn was first choice but no longer viable once Manchester City began negotiating his £10m transfer to Southampton. A concerted effort to land Stockdale from Birmingham City on a season-long loan failed last month after Birmingham refused to accept the percentage of salary which United were proposing to pay. Chelsea class Blackman as a future first-team player and were only willing to consider loan offers for him.
Leeds are currently working on at least one more addition from the top flight and, despite various setbacks, expect four or five new recruits to materialise, in keeping with Bielsa’s request for recruitment in “four or five different positions where we need to strengthen.” A striker, a midfielder and a full-back remain on the wanted list. Bielsa made no secret of the fact that signings under him would be restrained. “We are not intending to bring too many new faces in,” he said last month.
From Kinnear’s perspective, the end of the World Cup was seen as a moment which might open the market up. “It’s slow, it’s a tough market and there are things that are slow because of the World Cup,” he said. “But we expect things to speed up once people return back from that.
“There’ll be bigger moves at other clubs which trigger moves we might be able to make. It’s slow and steady. We want to get people into the squad as soon as we can but not at the expense of getting the right people.”