Leeds United's £1m transfer slip and 'personality test' dictates final days of January transfer window

National World
Leeds United’s wait to strengthen Daniel Farke’s squad during the January transfer window has reached the final two days, with the club yet to announce any new faces despite the departure of six players.

Luke Ayling, Djed Spence, Lewis Bate, Darko Gyabi, Leo Hjelde and Jeremiah Mullen have all departed Elland Road in various different guises. Four are out on loan, but only two are expected to return to Thorp Arch at the end of the season.

Four are also defenders which, broadly speaking, is an area fans and Farke know needs bolstering during the next 48 hours. United’s boss has suggested more than once this month there are ‘one or two’ positions where the squad could be stronger or better-equipped in the event of injury and suspension.

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Farke has not said so explicitly, but trawl popular fan forums or social networking sites and the cry to sign a full-back is almost as unanimous as the synchronised chanting of club anthem Marching On Together before kick-off at Elland Road.

Names have been bandied about but few credible links have surfaced. Daiki Hashioka was one the club were interested in pursuing until concerns over an injury led to the Whites backing out. Ben Godfrey is another whose name has been linked substantially with a switch to Elland Road, as has Burnley defender Connor Roberts.

To those not tasked with keeping the books in good order at Elland Road, or knowing the extent of Leeds’ headroom regarding Profitability and Sustainability Rules (PSR), loan moves for Godfrey or Roberts appear, on the face of things at least, straightforward to complete. But those are Premier League players on Premier League money, full internationals in their own right, and even those deemed surplus to requirements will not be forfeited ‘as a gift’ to coin a Farke turn-of-phrase when describing Charlie Cresswell’s stay-or-go situation earlier in the window.

One oft-underappreciated aspect to transfer dealings which fans are not privy to are the personality tests or character assessments conducted by clubs before signing a player. In the modern era, any transfer is a considerable investment and financial outlay. Increasingly, with the margin for error wafer thin, clubs want their additions to be as close to a sure thing as possible.

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Leeds needn’t be reminded of the £1 million loan fee and undisclosed wage contribution shelled out to Tottenham Hotspur for Djed Spence’s efforts this season, which amounted to 390 Championship minutes from seven appearances before the 23-year-old was sent back to his parent club. Some might say the new regime at Elland Road, led by a manager, technical director and transfers advisor still in their first season working together, were stung by this particular experience. Once bitten, twice shy, as the saying goes.

Leeds are in no position, sporting or financial, to concede similar missteps when it comes to player acquisition, particularly whilst running a Premier League operation on Championship revenue.

It is perhaps why the names Godfrey and Roberts keep cropping up. The Burnley full-back is already well-acquainted with Dan James and Joe Rodon from their time together at Swansea, while the trio are understood to be close friends off the pitch, too. Roberts also knows Ethan Ampadu’s game inside out having represented Wales together almost 100 times between them. There will be few players on the market currently who Farke is able to glean a stronger character reference from.

Godfrey, meanwhile, Farke has first-hand experience managing during their time at Carrow Road. The York-born defender earned both his England caps whilst playing under Farke at Norwich City before sealing a transfer in excess of £20 million to Everton. In both cases, the personality test is likely already passed.

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Speak to individuals within the game, particularly those involved in recruitment, and this intangible topic of a player’s character comes to the fore time and time again. Coaches want to know they can trust in their players and clubs want to know they can trust a manager’s judgement on potential investments. Given Farke’s comments in the wake of Spence’s exit earlier this month, you’d imagine the German is no different.

“We are Leeds United, we stay in the driving seat,” Farke has said, or words to a similar effect, on more than one occasion. Leeds will not be held to ransom by opposition clubs during a window in which almost every Premier League side has done minimal business. It’s suggested boardrooms are fearful of contravening PSR and receiving a similar fate to the likes of Everton and Nottingham Forest, both of whom face charges brought by the league relating to Financial Fair Play breaches. Money in before money out, and when nobody’s buying, the wheel turns much slower.

That is, until the final days of the window when, for many clubs, business becomes a necessity. Leeds may yet do nothing before Thursday evening’s deadline, but that will not be for the want of trying. Farke’s choice of words has been that the club will not ‘fall asleep’ to opportunities in the market.

Enquiries are being made and telephone conferences hosted, but ultimately if a player does not pass the personality test, a deal is not struck. Even if Farke’s assessment of a potential signing’s character gets the green light, the financials between negotiating clubs don’t always align, and a deal fails to come to fruition. Then, there are the more specific terms, such as game-time assurances - see Fabio Carvalho to Hull City this month - personal circumstances and much more to consider.

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Farke has spoken about potential incomings needing to be the ‘full package’ and that is what Leeds are holding out for. The delay with which United appear to be operating in January is most probably due to that, an unwillingness to settle. Only the best will do for Farke, but as the deadline gets closer and impatience grows amongst fans, the reality of the situation is, just about anyone of a decent calibre will do.

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