Leeds United beat huge competition to convince Arsenal to send highly-prized youngster Eddie Nketiah to Elland Road on loan and believe he’ll be a “fantastic replacement” for Kemar Roofe.
The Whites were able to meet the Premier League side’s requirements on two fronts and edge ahead of Bristol City, Fortuna Düsseldorf and a host of other clubs vying for the striker’s services.
United managing director Angus Kinnear has revealed how the club’s director of football Victor Orta had to pitch to Arsenal for the 20-year-old and convince the Gunners that not only could Leeds afford him, they were the right club to develop his talent.
Key to Leeds’ argument was the identity of the man masterminding their Championship promotion bid, head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
“The competition for Eddie was huge,” said Kinnear.
“Arsenal run a process that combines meeting their financial requirements and the technical process, the footballing side.
“The commitment you have to make for these players on loan now is not dissimilar to what you’d be able to buy them for a few years ago – Harry Wilson had a £2.5m loan fee plus his wages.
“They had to sit down with Victor and we had to convince them this was the best place for them to develop the player and when we send him back at the end of the season he’s going to be competing for a first team place.
“Arsenal are convinced he can be a first-team regular, he’s not someone they’re building up to sell.
“I think playing for Marcelo [Bielsa] and his track record of developing young talent, in a team playing attractive pro-active football has given us a competitive advantage above other clubs.”
Since Roofe’s move to Anderlecht was first rumoured, fans have expressed concerns over the lack of proven goalscorers in the squad.
Patrick Bamford is the only recognised senior frontman at the club.
But Kinnear says the possibility of going out and signing a striker who already has a goalscoring record in the Championship is a “myth”.
So attracting a highly-rated Premier League youngster was Leeds’ preferred path.
“The reality is that when you’ve got properly proven Championship players able to contribute to teams that secure promotion, they’re normally Premier League players fairly quickly,” he said.
“It’s really difficult.
“We hear it from supporters, let’s go and buy a proven Championship goalscorer.
“Well the proven Championship goalscorers are Neil Maupay, Chris Wood, Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez who are in the Premier League.
“It’s almost a myth there’s these proven players you can go and secure.
“Where we think we can get value from, and this fits with Profit and Sustainability rules and is why the loan model will be increasingly used by Championship clubs, the best value you can get, although not inexpensive, is by obtaining a high value loan player.
“When you look at the teams who were successful last year, Aston Villa had Mings, Axel Tuanzebe and Tammy Abraham, you look at the team we lost to in the play-off semi-final with Tomori at the back, Mount and Wilson.
“I think successful teams are going to utilise the loan market.”
And in Nketiah, Leeds are convinced they’ve got a player who can not only contribute to the first team but mitigate for the loss of last season’s top goalscorer.
Kinnear cites the length of time Arsenal took to make a decision on his immediate future as evidence.
“We think Eddie is a fantastic replacement for Kemar,” said Kinnear.
“With Eddie, he’s not a player we’ve picked from the obscure reaches of the Arsenal academy.
“The reason we’ve had to wait so long in the window is because Arsenal were deciding if he was going to be a first team player or not and he’s competing against [Alexander] Lacazette and [Pierre-Emerick] Aubamayeng for those positions.
“That shows how highly they rate him.
“He’s already scored for the Arsenal first team in competitive fixtures and in pre-season.
“He was released because Arsenal bought [Nicolas] Pepe, that’s the level we’re working at.
“It’s not without its risk understandably but I think the myth of Championship teams being able to secure Championship goalscorers is actually harder than people think.”
Roofe’s exit, in the managing director’s eyes, turned out to be a “good piece of business” and he’s praised Anderlecht’s new forward for the way he conducted himself prior to departing.
“Kemar obviously only had a year left on his contract and he handled it very maturely and responsibily,” he said.
“We tried to find an offer attractive enough for him to stay but ultimately couldn’t come close to matching what he’s been offered elsewhere.
“We think we did a good bit of business to get him away for the value we did, with a year left on his contract because otherwise he could have signed a pre-contract in January and then left.
“He goes with our best wishes, he handled the situation superbly.”