The transfer window is looming and Leeds United think their essential boxes have been ticked. A left back and a striker were their priorities for January and, after fashion, both arrived. What happens as time runs out is that every two years the question is whether the club has anything else up their sleeve.
After the fashion is another way of saying that one of the players signed by Leeds, Max Wober and Georginio Rutter, cannot strictly follow the pigeons. Wober is a centre-back as well as a left-back and Rutter has the ability to occupy the wide attacking positions as well as the central line but, in buying them, the club have covered the areas they had planned. And in paying a combined £40m ($49.4m) to those two signings, Leeds will be hoping the difference they make is quick and tangible.
Throughout the month, though, there is constant suggestion of another in the pipeline, and a central midfielder in particular. That deal was prompted by Leeds releasing Mateusz Klich and allowing him to move to MLS’ DC United, but at least two options Leeds have been linked with, Angers’ Azzedine Ounahi and Juventus’ Weston McKennie, are players who come have knowledge. are tracked in previous windows. Both are attractive and either would be welcome at Elland Road, provided the price was right.
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Ounahi’s value has changed dramatically over the past few months, which may explain why Victor Orta, Leeds’ director of football, said in an interview with Spanish media before Christmas that the 22-year-old’s stellar performance for Morocco at the World Cup was in a surprise to many in recruiting circles, not least to him. Ounahi was good but he was drafted to the tournament in Qatar here good. While Angers were talking about a fee of around £10m in the summer window, the price would now be closer to £20m, if not less. Against that assessment, Leeds have yet to take negotiations with Angers or Ounahi’s camp to an advanced stage.
McKennie, 24, is also someone Leeds have had a speculative eye on for years. They considered trying to sign him when his star was rising at Schalke in Germany, although Juventus took him on loan in 2020, initially as part of a permanent package costing £15m. was McKennie has made 70 Serie A appearances and has further experience in the Champions League, this season in a side that is grounded and patient in its play, very different in style to Jesse Marsch’s team at Leeds. He can play box-to-box or in a deeper midfield role and, like Ounahi, Leeds will find ways to fit him into their line-up.
McKennie’s signing will be the third time in just over seven months that Leeds have spent heavily in securing a regular member of the US men’s national team, following investments of £20m each on Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams. Although he is far from the picture at Juve, the Italian club is in a bad situation, which has emerged from an investigation into alleged financial irregularities that resulted in the club’s former managers and a 15-year suspension. -Getting a point in Serie A.
Juve will look to regain their balance now and the buzz around McKennie suggests that cutting him off the wage bill and attracting a fee for him will be at the disposal of the owner in Turin. Leeds, at this point, remain doubtful of Juve agreeing to a price they can afford, with Juve valuing him at £20m. A loan with an obligation to make the transfer permanent when the season ends would be a way to make the move cheaper.
Personal circumstances will not be a major obstacle, however, and Leeds rule neither Ounahi nor McKennie out, aware that the final week of the window is where circumstances often change rapidly. But with less than a week before the deadline, they are some distance away from meeting either Angers or Juve and it is possible that interest in the pair will have to lie dormant until a later window. Leeds are more confident of one more deal in the pipeline, a bid for Diogo Monteiro, the young Portuguese center at Servette in Switzerland who is about to turn 18, but a new and proven midfielder is more of a move feast.
Much of this depends on money and the way in which transfer funds are provided in Leeds. The club is in the middle of a process that should end with control of the boardroom being transferred from current majority owner Andrea Radrizzani to 49ers Corporation, and any signing at Elland Road will be fraught with debate over who pays the initial payment and how future regular payments will be made. give it forward seen A management-level deal has been agreed on the £10m purchase of Wober from Red Bull Salzburg and a deal for Rutter that broke the transfer record and could eventually earn Hoffenheim £35m. Another injection would be needed to fund Ounahi or McKennie – unless, like last summer when Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha won, the money could be raised by selling an existing squad member.
Earlier this week, Leicester City were linked with an interest in Jack Harrison, which is not the first time they have been linked with the winger. Leeds received a link about him in the summer but were so resistant to losing him that they put a £30million-plus valuation on him.
Harrison, though, is 18 months away from the end of his contract and has yet to sign an extension. Leeds’ preference is to tie him down to a new deal and keep him longer, with talks planned after the end of the window. As far as Leicester fans go, there is resistance at Elland Road to the idea of allowing him to join a club around them in the lower reaches of the Premier League. Newcastle United were one of the sides to look at him in August and if their current pursuit of a deal for Everton’s Anthony Gordon fails, there is a chance Eddie Howe may renew his interest in Harrison.
All in all, the squad at Elland Road has changed significantly since the end of last season, with almost half of Marsch’s line-up against Brentford on Sunday being made up of new signings completed after its conclusion.
A midfielder like Ounahi or McKennie over Wober and Rutter would widen another transfer window this window, although Leeds feel their most important business is complete.
It may take place at Elland Road in January. But never say that the deadline is approaching.
(Top photo: Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)