Leeds United will have to battle big names to sign Brighton's Ben White says chief executive

Championship title winners Leeds United will be 'fighting with some big names' as they try to make Ben White a permanent signing this summer, admits Angus Kinnear.

Sunday, 19th July 2020, 5:45 am

The club's chief executive says Leeds will explore the possibility of keeping the centre-half at Elland Road after a stellar season on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion.

Seagulls boss Graham Potter, whose side are all-but mathematically safe from relegation from the Premier League, hammered home a message he has been sending for months when asked about the 23-year-old in his Saturday press conference.

As far as Brighton are concerned, at least on the record, the defender is going no where.

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"We see Ben as part of our plan," said Potter.

"Everyone won, he got great experience and Leeds United got their goal of promotion. We rate Ben highly, I've followed his career closely, we like him a lot.

"We'll see him in pre-season and he will be part of our group."

Money talks, however and Premier League champions Liverpool are just one of the big clubs to have shown an interest in White this season, thanks to his phenomenal rookie season in the Championship. White's reading of the game, defensive solidity and skill on the ball have made him an integral part of Marcelo Bielsa's promotion-winning second season. With White alongside Liam Cooper in the heart of the defence, Leeds have conceded just 34 times in the Championship, the fewest of any team in the division.

FIGHTING - Leeds United will have to battle with big names this summer if they want to prise Ben White from Brighton and Hove Albion. Pic: PA

Kinnear recognises how highly rated White is in the upper echelons of English football and although Leeds would have ideally liked to have included an option to make the deal permanent when signing him on loan last summer, Brighton wouldn't agree to it.

The two sides will speak again, however, he says and talk about the player's future.

"Ben is going to be hugely sought after," said the chief executive.

"It's one of the risks of the type of deal we did. I know supporters will wonder why there wasn't an option to buy him but Brighton weren't prepared to do that.

"It was either take the player without an option or don't take him at all. We clearly made the right decision and we have some conversations to have with Brighton as to where they see his future.

"They rate him very highly and other clubs rate him very highly."

Where Kinnear believes Leeds might just be ahead of some of their Premier League rivals, or even Brighton themselves if they do try to keep White, is that he has made Elland Road his home over the past year. His friendship with the likes of Kalvin Phillips, his importance to Bielsa's plan and the freedom Bielsaball gives him to showcase his diverse skills may play in the Whites' favour. But Kinnear is still realistic. Signing a player who made Championship football look all so easy is going to be incredibly difficult.

"We have an advantage in that Ben loves the club and he has loved playing for the club," said Kinnear.

"He loves his teammates and knows he will get game time under Marcelo, so we have a small advantage. Ultimately, we are going to be fighting with some big names for his signature."