Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Leeds United: Big decisions to be made on the future

Yorkshire Evening Post 6/5/15
One certainty about Leeds United’s summer is that the influx of players at Elland Road will not be as heavy as it was during Massimo Cellino’s first transfer window as owner.
He and Neil Redfearn share the view that a difficult season need not lead to a complete revision of the club’s squad, even if their opinions on who to sign might differ. Cellino talked recently of bringing in “four or five” recruits before the end of August and his head coach agreed last week, saying Leeds needed “four or five of the right quality who understand this division.”
Whether Redfearn has any say in that process remains to be seen. United held a board meeting on Monday to agree Cellino’s reinstatement as a director following the end of his Football League disqualification – an appointment which the League must first approve – but Redfearn has had no contact with him since the Italian completed his ban on Sunday.
Redfearn’s contract officially expires at the end of June and he is one of several people who are waiting for Cellino to talk with them. Leeds’ sporting director, Nicola Salerno, has been absent from United since signing the letter suspending Redfearn’s assistant, Steve Thompson, and although he has another 12 months on his contract, Cellino claimed last month that Salerno had resigned and is understood to be looking to replace him.
Salerno, who travelled home to Italy without warning amid the controversy over Thompson’s departure and is no longer actively working for the club, was in the thick of the transfer business which brought 15 new players to Elland Road last summer, many of them from Italian clubs.
Another three joined Leeds in January – all on loan as United contended with a Financial Fair Play (FFP) transfer embargo – and despite the accord between Cellino and Redfearn about the work needed before next season, the club have numerous decisions to make about a squad containing seven loanees and eight players whose deals expire next month.
In both of those groups, certain verdicts will be straightforward. Zan Benedicic, the Slovenian midfielder who arrived on a temporary basis from AC Milan last August, has been recovering from knee surgery for several months and has no prospect of a second chance. Albanian striker Edgar Cani did not start a single game and is expected to return to his parent club, Catania.
Brazilian playmaker Adryan was a prime target of Cellino’s a year ago, signed on a season-long loan as part of a complicated deal which prised him from Flamengo, but the 20-year-old made few waves at Elland Road and played only twice in the second half of this term.
Latterly Redfearn saw no place for him in United’s first-team squad and rated other members of Leeds’ development team more highly.
Cellino decided earlier in the season that he would not take up a £3m option to sign Adryan from Flamengo permanently, though reports in Italy claim United’s owner would be interested in taking him on loan again. Adryan is already back in Brazil.
Redfearn saw more worth in French midfielder Granddi Ngoyi – concerned only about the fitness of a player who arrived from Palermo in January with a thigh injury and took until April to recover – and the retention of centre-back Sol Bamba, another Palermo player, was recommended by United’s boss when he gave the club his ideas for a retained list.
Bamba was a highly-influential member of Redfearn’s team during the second half of the season and a prominent reason for their mid-table finish in the Championship. The former Leicester City player hopes to free himself for the remainder of a three-year contract at Palermo and move to Elland Road on a full-time basis, though his outspoken attack on United’s owner and board after Saturday’s draw with Rotherham was, by Bamba’s own admission, an interview which risked his chances of a deal.
Of the eight players whose permanent contracts end on June 30, Rodolph Austin is the most prominent.
Leeds turned down an offer for him of £500,000 from Wigan Athletic at the end of the January transfer window and considered handing him a 12-month extension but an offer was never made. Brighton and Millwall were also interested in him and Bolton Wanderers have been linked in the past week.
Aidan White, who returned from a long-term injury on Saturday, and substitute goalkeeper Stuart Taylor are also in the final weeks of their deals and look likely to be released along with Michael Tonge and Zac Thompson. New contracts are expected to be offered to youngsters Kalvin Phillips and Lewis Walters.
Elsewhere in the squad, nine players are tied down for another 12 months, including Lewis Cook and Sam Byram. Alex Mowatt, Charlie Taylor and first-choice goalkeeper Marco Silvestri are among those contracted to 2017 and beyond. Leeds have hinted at contract talks with Cook, Mowatt, Byram and Charlie Taylor but are yet to announce extensions to their deals.
Redfearn and his fitness staff gave the entire squad summer training programmes on Thursday, ahead of the final game of the Championship season, and the players departed on holiday after their 0-0 draw with Rotherham.
Amid the doubt about his own job, United’s head coach was nonetheless asked to put a pre-season schedule together, including a tour abroad. Ireland is believed to have been spoken about as a possible destination. In that respect this summer is likely to be more organised than pre-season 12 months ago when Leeds threw together a hastily-arranged trip to Italy.
“I’ve been asked to prepare pre-season which I’ve done,” Redfearn said last week. “I’ve arranged a trip and put some friendlies to them (the club). The lads have gone away with pre-season programmes.
“All that’s in place so it’ll be different from last year whether I’m here or not. They’ll come back prepared with a pre-season schedule in place. Whether that’s tweaked or not I don’t know but we’re in a better position.”