Leeds United: Leeds reluctant to sell off prized asset

Charlie Taylor
Charlie Taylor
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Back in April, Charlie Taylor’s expectation of this transfer window was that he would remain as a Leeds United player “unless anything drastic happens.” The club’s receipt of a transfer request from his agent over the weekend confirmed that the defender had reached the drastic stage.

The request itself did not come as a shock to Leeds and by the end of last week officials at Elland Road were almost expecting one. Taylor’s contract has gone the same way as Sam Byram’s, running into its final year with no likelihood of an extension, and United have exactly four weeks to decide how best to deal with their most saleable asset.

Sources at Leeds say the club’s owner, Massimo Cellino, is strongly opposed to cashing in on Taylor before the summer window shuts and United’s statement last night, rejecting the request out of hand, backed up the Italian’s stance.

Taylor has been a fixture at left-back for 18 months and won United’s player-of-the-year award in April, at the end of his first full season. Leeds have no experienced replacements in their squad and, without a like-for-like signing, would face the immediate choice of switching Gaetano Berardi from the right side of defence or relying on untested youngster Tyler Denton.

Taylor, nonetheless, is in a different contractual position to Byram, a player sold to West Ham United six months before the end of his deal but one who Leeds would have earned compensation for regardless on account of his age. Taylor turns 23 in September and a transfer to another English club when his deal expires next summer would raise a tribunal fee but FIFA rules allow out-of-contract 23-year-olds to move abroad on a free transfer. He is represented by Colin Pomford, an agent who bases himself in Madrid and does much business on the continent.

In retaining Taylor in the short term, Leeds run the risk of losing a seven-figure fee as well as a talented, homegrown defender. West Bromwich Albion and Burnley are two of the clubs interested in him and Taylor’s request for a transfer a week before the start of the season might yet encourage approaches for him.

Despite the uncertainty, head coach Garry Monk has used Taylor regularly throughout pre-season and will almost certainly start him at Queens Park Rangers on Sunday. Cellino, too, was very open in saying that Taylor would not be sold in this window, irrespective of his dwindling contract.

Taylor is into the last 12 months of the three-year deal which Cellino handed him in 2014. On the advice of Neil Redfearn, the left-back was singled out for an extension at a time when Cellino had just taken charge of Leeds as majority shareholder and numerous players were leaving Elland Road.

United say Taylor and his agent are refusing to enter contract negotiations and Ben Mansford, the club’s new chief executive, remarked last week that “at this moment in time, Charlie doesn’t want to extend his current deal with us.” Taylor’s agent has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Speaking to the YEP on Friday, Mansford said: “Everybody here would love Charlie to sign a long-term deal. The reality is, having been here a month and spoken to Charlie’s representatives – who are very cordial and articulate themselves well – it appears that as it stands, Charlie doesn’t want to extend his current deal.

“Football can change. Charlie might have a change of heart. Who knows? But as it stands today, Charlie isn’t going to extend his deal. That’s just a factual situation that’s been out there for a couple of months.”

Cellino himself has long given short shrift to the suggestion that Taylor would be auctioned here and now. The Italian told the Mirror last month: “I’m very disappointed with the way he has acted. We are not going to let him go. Trust me.

“For almost one year, I’ve been trying to get him to sign a new contract. I promise, even if we lose him at the end of the season for free, I’m not selling him.”

Mansford reiterated that stance, saying: “The owner’s said he’s not going to be sold and he’s the boss. Garry definitely doesn’t want him sold and it’s not going to be easy to replace someone of Charlie’s quality. When you put all that together, it seems clear.”

Leeds underlined those comments with their statement yesterday evening and Taylor is continuing to train at Thorp Arch and work towards the opening game of the Championship campaign at QPR this weekend.

Former United boss Uwe Rosler found himself in a similar situation with Byram a year ago and admitted at the time that speculation about the right-back’s future had started to affect his displays for the club.

Monk, who saw 19-year-old midfielder Lewis Cook sold to Bournemouth in a deal worth up to £10m four weeks ago, insisted during Leeds’ recent tour of Ireland that he had no issue with Taylor’s attitude or commitment and no concern that questions about his future might curtail his form.

“Charlie’s been great, he’s been fantastic in training and he’s very focused on what we’re doing,” Monk said.

“That’s not a problem. There’s no worries about it from my side and it’s business as usual. Charlie’s a big, important part of what I’m doing.”