Leeds United’s plans to sign Kyle Bartley have suffered a major blow after Huddersfield Town’s draw at Chelsea all but relegated Swansea City to the Championship.
Swansea are likely to fight to keep Bartley after results this week effectively cost them their Premier League status and began preparations for a season in the second tier.
Leeds have made initial enquiries about Bartley – a major transfer target for the Elland Road club – and were confident that Swansea would listen to offers if they held on for another year in the Premier League.
Carlos Carvalhal’s side, however, are three points from safety with one game to play after losing 1-0 at home to Southampton on Tuesday night.
Southampton are effectively out of reach with a superior goal difference and Huddersfield, the only other club Swansea were in a position to catch, required a point on Wednesday evening to guarantee their safety a year after winning the Championship play-off final. Their visit to Stamford Bridge ended in a 1-1 draw.
Swansea contest their last fixture against Stoke City on Sunday but a streak of seven matches without a win will, barring a mathematical shock, end their seven-year stay in the Premier League.
Bartley, who built a strong reputation in Leeds during a year on loan at Elland Road during the 2016-17 season, signed a new four-year deal at the Liberty Stadium last August but was set to be made available in the transfer window had Swansea held onto their top-flight place.
A knee ligament injury led to surgery in the first month of this term, ruling Bartley out until January, and he has made only five league appearances. His season has been ended early by another knee problem, though the latest setback is not believed to be serious.
Leeds will maintain their interest in him regardless of Swansea’s league status and the 26-year-old defender is understood to be open to a return to Elland Road. United see Bartley as a marquee signing and an answer to the defensive issues which affected their recent Championship campaign.
Bartley’s year with the club, in which he started 45 league matches, saw Leeds concede just 47 goals and finish seventh. Their concessions increased by 17 this season and a 2-0 win over Queens Park Rangers on Sunday left United 13th in the final Championship table.
Luke Ayling, Leeds’ right-back who played with Bartley during the 2016-17 term and was also a team-mate of his in Arsenal’s academy, underlined the centre-back’s influence when he spoke about a potential transfer after Sunday’s victory over QPR.
Ayling said: “I speak to him every day. I’m going away with him twice this summer and I’ll be in his ear, don’t you worry about that, trying to get him back. There’s got to be a lot of stuff that happens for him to come back but, hopefully, we can get him. He’s a big character in the dressing room.
“He’s loud, he’s a good presence and obviously he would be good. Coops (Liam Cooper) has stepped in and done really well this year and Pontus (Jansson) has done well. Kyle coming back in would make that even better.”
United head coach Paul Heckingbottom also talked up Bartley last week, saying: “Everyone has seen his qualities from last time he led the team.
“He consistently played a high number of games, played well and, looking from the outside, that’s what you knew you were playing against. He’s strong defensively.”