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Leeds unlikely to sign Mbakogu before the summer
Monday, 29th Jan 2018 18:11 by Tim Whelan

Leeds are close to completing a pre-contract agreement with Carpi to sign striker Jerry Mbakogu, but with the Italian club chasing promotion from Serie B they are unlikely to agree to part with the player immediately.

Two Leeds scouts saw Mbakogu score in a 2-1 win against Spezia on Saturday, and in total he has 36 goals in 124 appearances for Carpi, including eight in 20 in all competitions this season. He is Nigerian, but holds an Italian passport as his family came to Italy when he was at a young age, so he won’t have any problems getting a work permit to play in England.

He began his career in the Padova youth team set-up before moving to Juve Stabia on loan, where he scored 13 times in 68 games. He was then transferred to Carpi in 2014, though he did also have a loan spell with Russian side Krylia Sovetov in 2016.

Mbakogu is rated at £3.5 million, and has a reasonable scoring record in Italy’s Serie B, both in Capri's promotion-winning campaign of 2014-15 and in the current season. But he struggled in Serie A in 2015-16, scoring only twice as the Carpi were relegated straight back down to the second tier.

The delay in signing the player has caused a lot of grumbling on social media today, as Leeds really need a striker right now to revive a current campaign that has seen us drift out of the play-off places in recent weeks. And while there’s not a lot the club can do when he’s contracted to a club who won’t sell him, you have to wonder if Leeds should be targeting a striker who is immediately available.

And you have to question whether he will be good enough, or whether Mbakogu will join the list of substandard players Victor Orta has brought to the club. If his scoring record in Serie B is steady rather than spectacular and he didn’t cut it in Serie A, is he really good enough for Leeds? At 25 he’s a bit too old to be considered to be one for the future.

Cellino brought several players to Leeds from Serie B and the lower reaches of Serie A, and then had to admit that he’d misjudged how competitive the Championship is. But the club doesn’t seem to learn the lesson, as we keep bringing in players from various European leagues, only to find that they don’t turn out to be the bargains we hoped for, as the standard of England’s second tier is higher than that of the leagues they came from.

The only indication I’ve seen that Leeds are looking elsewhere for a new striker is the story that BetVictor has quoted us as joint second favourites to sign Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, along with Chelsea and Norwich. I would have thought it would be unlikely that he would head to Stamford Bridge, where he would be some way down the queue for first team football.

Barnes has some experience of life in the Championship, having scored 53 times for the Brighton in 170 matches, so would probably be an improvement on the striking options we already have. But BetVictor seem to think that Crystal Palace are the firm favourites for his signature, and he would probably prefer to stay in the Premiership and join Palace rather than come to Leeds.

So as far as the rest of the season is concerned, we will have to hope that Pierre-Michel Lasogga has returned to form after his two goals against Millwall, and is about to go on a scoring spree that will fire us into the play-offs come the start of May.

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