While contract extension talks with Charlie Taylor appear to have stalled, Leeds hint that talks with Alex Mowatt and Lewie Coyle are motoring along at a much swifter pace. Phil Hay reports.
Leeds United have opened contract negotiations with Alex Mowatt – but the Elland Road club are increasingly resigned to losing player-of-the year Charlie Taylor.
Mowatt’s representatives met with officials from Leeds last week and have agreed to hold further talks about extending the midfielder’s contract beyond the end of this season.
Mowatt has been in the dark about his future for the past 12 months and the deal he signed in 2013 is due to expire next summer.
Have you downloaded the free YEP app available on Android and iphone?
The 21-year-old anticipated discussions about his contract at the end of the 2014-15 campaign – a season in which he claimed United’s player-of-the-year award – but United have allowed his deal to run into its last 12 months.
Last week’s discussions, however, could clear the way for a fresh agreement and the retention of a youngster who progressed from United’s academy four years ago.
Mowatt captained United’s Under-18s and was part of their title-winning squad under former coach Richard Naylor before making his senior debut under Brian McDermott.
His form and his nine goals in the 2014-15 season saw him named player-of-the-year but Mowatt lost his way and his form last term, troubled by injuries and hampered by a string of appearances as a left winger.
He is likely to seek assurances from Leeds that he will be used in a more central midfield role, a position which current head coach Garry Monk has employed him in during pre-season.
Mowatt scored in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Peterborough United, his first goal at any level since November.
Taylor also featured in that friendly and has been heavily involved during Monk’s short tenure but the left-back’s situation is more precarious amid an absence of discussions over his deal.
Taylor’s contract, like Mowatt’s, runs to June 30, 2017 but Leeds owner Massimo Cellino recently accused the defender and his agent of refusing to respond to requests for talks about an extension.
Those remarks were reiterated by United chief executive Ben Mansford during an interview with BBC Radio Leeds on Tuesday night.
Mansford, who took the chief executive’s job a month ago, said: “Some of that is from before my time with the club so it’s a little bit difficult for me to answer where things might be historically with Charlie.
“But I think it’s right to say that at this moment in time Charlie doesn’t want to extend his current deal with us. That’s a fair and honest report as to where it’s at.”
Taylor was named as Leeds’ player of the year in May, at the end of his first full season as a senior player at Elland Road.
Cellino put his faith in Taylor in 2014 by handing him a three-year deal at a time when numerous other players were released but the left-back is potentially 12 months away from a free transfer.
While United would be entitled to compensation for Taylor if he joins another English club next summer, FIFA rules allow 23-year-olds to move abroad for no fee. Taylor turns 23 in September and is represented by Colin Pomford, a prominent agent based in Madrid.
Pomford and Cellino fell out previously over former Leeds right-back Sam Byram, another client of Pomford’s.
Cellino’s demand that Byram accept a wage cut as part of a new contract offer caused a rift between them and, following criticism of him by Cellino, Byram was sold to West Ham United for £3.7m in January. He had six months left on his deal at the time.
Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion are the club most keenly interested in Taylor but Cellino, who sanctioned the sale of 19-year-old Lewis Cook to Bournemouth this month, has already insisted that he will risk losing Taylor for nothing next summer rather than sell him now.
Cellino said: “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. But I promise, even if we lose him at the end of the season for free I’m not selling him.”
Monk echoed those thoughts during Leeds’ pre-season tour of Ireland, saying: “He has to be here.
“Charlie’s been great, he’s been fantastic in training and he’s very focused on what we’re doing. 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.”
Pomford has not responded to requests for comment from the YEP but speaking in April, Taylor played down the suggestion that he might look to move on from Leeds.
“The dream is still to play in the Premier League with Leeds,” he said. “I’m not just saying that, it’s how we look at it. Unless anything drastic happens, I’m sure I’ll be here. I’m not thinking any other way.”
After the departures of Cook and Byram, Mowatt and Taylor are the two surviving members of the group of four academy products who flourished at Elland Road during the 2014-15 campaign.
Other youngsters have emerged since then and Mansford revealed that Leeds are looking to extend the contract held by talented right-back Lewie Coyle.