LEEDS UNITED have issued a brief statement regarding the future of wantaway striker Ross McCormack - claiming they are keen to retain him.
Owner Massimo Cellino, whose relationship with the United captain appears to have deteriorated and the club have responded to intense speculation about the future of the Scot, who tabled a transfer request on June 20.
It said: “We would like to reiterate our desire to keep Ross McCormack at Leeds United. This desire includes keeping all of our best players as we look to build a stronger and successful squad for the 2014/15 Championship season.
“Leeds United may not be the richest club in the Championship, but we do not need to sell our best players in order to run the club successfully.”
It remains to be seen if McCormack does remain a Leeds player, with the unsettled forward is wanted by Fulham, who are hoping to finalise a deal to sign him shortly.
If McCormack leaves, Leeds would be expected to seek to recoup around £10m for his services, although Fulham are unlikely to pay that amount, with £8m likely to be a more realistic figure.
Speculation over the forward’s future intensified after he did not travel out to northern Italy for United’s two-week training camp in Santa Cristina on Monday, despite tweeting at the start of last week that he was planning to be with his team-mates in Italy.
Relations are believed to have grown increasingly strained between McCormack and Cellino since, with comments attributed to the United president last night saying: “I’ve already spent too long dealing with one player. I have a team to look after.”
Back at Hockaday’s unveiling on June 19, comments from Cellino did not hint at any difficulties in his relationship with McCormack, as he attempted to clarify the club’s position by stating he would only sell him if a ‘big’ team in the top-flight came coming, while describing him as a ‘beautiful player.’
This came after Fulham saw a £5m bid for the Scot turned down, with Cellino stating: “If he gets an offer from a big team in the Premier League, then we should give a chance to the guy to go, to face a new level.
“But the teams who have asked for McCormack are from the Championship (Fulham).
“So I think that for once I can do something big.
“I am not selling McCormack.
“He signed a (four-year) contract here and I will engage myself to keep him here.
“He is a beautiful player.”
Despite the knock-back, the Cottagers have maintained their interest in the forward amid speculation they were lining up an improved bid.
McCormack was also the subject of a failed bid from West Ham in January, when he was also linked with former club Cardiff City.
Newcastle United are another who have been credited with an interest in McCormack, although they scotched talk of a bid back in early June with the striker’s future having been under the microscope throughout the current calendar year.
McCormack only signed a new four-year deal at United last autumn and while he expressed his desire to realise his Premier League dreams with the club at the time, the fraught and testing situation at the club this year appears to have prompted a rethink. McCormack, who topped the Championship scoring charts with 28 goals in a prolific 2013-14 campaign, also turns 28 next month with the prolific Glaswegian effectively forced to weigh up his feelings for Leeds with his realistic hopes of playing top-flight football in the near future.
Speaking at the end of last season, McCormack, pictured far right, said: “There’s no point in me sitting here saying that I don’t want to play in the Premier League, because I do.
I want to play there as soon as possible, but in my head there’s a lot to take into consideration.”
Defender Marius Zaliukas, meanwhile, has linked up with Rangers for a second trial at the club. The former Hearts defender negotiated his release from United yesterday by mutual consent, despite having a year left on his Whites deal.
The free agent has now linked up with Rangers, who came close to agreeing a deal with him last September.
Leeds have also been linked with a move for former Arsenal ‘keeper Stuart Taylor.
United have confirmed they will play local side FC Gherdeina during their pre-season camp in Italy next Thursday (July 10) before facing Romanian outfit FC Viitorul Constanta on Sunday, July 13. Both matches will be played at Mulin De Coi in Val Gardena and will kick off at 5.30pm.
Admission for the game against FC Gherdeina is free and supporters are able to pay on the gate for the game against FC Viitorul. United’s first Championship home clash of the season against Middlesbrough on Saturday, August 16 has been brought forward to a 12.15pm kick-off, with the match to be screened live on Sky Sports.