Tottenham Hotspur have cleared the way for Leeds United to re-sign for Jonathan Woodgate by releasing the out-of-contract defender.
Woodgate is a free agent after three-and-a-half years at White Hart Lane and is set to be offered the chance of a high-profile return to Leeds, the club where he started his professional career.
The 31-year-old’s departure from Spurs was confirmed yesterday, concluding an injury-ravaged spell with the Premier League side, and United are weighing up whether to strengthen their porous defence by recruiting the player on a free transfer.
The Middlesbrough-born centre-back made his name as a trainee at Elland Road, coming through United’s academy and making more than 100 appearances before a controversial £9m transfer to Newcastle United in 2003.
The sale caused uproar in Leeds but Woodgate’s subsequent career – consisting of time at St James’ Park, Real Madrid, Middlesbrough and latterly Tottenham – has been wrecked by fitness problems. He made only one first-team outing for Spurs last season.
Analysis of Woodgate’s physical condition would be critical to any agreement as Leeds bid to improve a defence which shipped 79 Championship goals last term.
As with Newcastle’s Alan Smith – another ex-United player who could be offered a return to Elland Road this summer – Leeds would not add Woodgate to their books if doubts about his future fitness arose, and he would also be required to accept a substantial cut to the salary he earned at White Hart Lane.
A fit Woodgate, however, would meet the requirements of Leeds manager Simon Grayson after a term in which a poor defensive record ended the club’s bid to qualify for the play-offs.
Leeds were previously linked with Woodgate in January, at which time Grayson said: “Jonathan Woodgate is a good player and we want good players at this football club.”
United already have four under-contract centre-backs – Andy O’Brien, Leigh Bromby, Alex Bruce and youngster Tom Lees – and they have offered Australian international Patrick Kisnorbo a short-term deal in an attempt to allow him to prove his fitness after a serious injury.
Kisnorbo, like Woodgate, played only once last season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon and Leeds will not hand him a lengthy deal until they are certain about the extent of his recovery.
Kisnorbo is still to officially accept their short-term proposal but is expected at Thorp Arch for pre-season training next month.