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the 49ers determined to hang on to our remaining key players
Thursday, 3rd Aug 2023 08:16 by Tim Whelan

The Yorkshire Post have reported that the club’s new owners are keen to retain the best of last season’s squad who are still at the club, but they have the funds to replace any who are prized away by the end of the transfer window.

While a number of last season’s team have already departed on season-long loans, at the moment we do still have Willy Gnonto, Luis Sinisterra, Tyler Adams and Jack Harrison at the club. The 49ers have acknowledged that this quartet are better than any players we could realistically hope to attract while we remain in the Championship, and they are reasonably confident that all four of them will still be with us by the start of next month.

Of course, that is partly because of injuries, with Adams and Harrison currently gracing the treatment room, while Sinisterra’s fitness record last season might be putting other clubs off, despite his involvement in our pre-season programme. A clause in Adams’ contract means he has a £20m release fee, and Chelsea and Villa have been mentioned as clubs who might activate it, but according to the Post his immediate priority is to get back to fitness after his hamstring operation.

Willy Gnonto doesn’t have any release clause in his contract, which puts Leeds in a stronger position than we are with the others, and we have already declined a £15m from Everton for the player. And according to TEAMtalk, Gnonto has told his agent that a move to Goodison Park doesn’t appeal to him, which is hardly surprising. But the same report also suggested that he would be more tempted by a move back to his native Italy, with Juventus and Atalanta showing interest.

We’re running out of time to get any new faces in before we start the season at home to Cardiff on Sunday, but the 49ers are still looking at several targets to replace the players who have already gone, in particular in central defence. But as with the appointment of the new manager, their preference is to wait until they are sure they have the right deal in place. Which will make a pleasant change from some of Victor Orta’s signings.

Leeds have been in touch with Liverpool about the possibility of signing 26-year-old Nat Phillips, but he has also been linked with Feyenoord, who could offer him Champions League football. Another name in the frame is Manchester City’s Taylor Harwood-Bellis, as the 21 year-old has only one year remaining on his contract. If he decides to move in search of first team football City would accept £15m for his services.

West Ham and Everton have also been linked with Harwood-Bellis, but neither have yet made an offer, and Leeds Live have reported that Nick Hammond has been in touch with the player’s representatives. It is still possible that the player will opt to extend his contract with City, but even then a season-long loan would be a possibility, if he wants to be this season’s Ben White.

We do of course have a very promising central defender already at the club in the shape of Charlie Cresswell, who is only a year younger than Harwood-Bellis. He had a successful season on loan at Millwall in the division we now find ourselves in, and thankfully he has opted to sign a four new contract, which is a great relief after the stories suggesting he might be tempted by offers from elsewhere.

He must have been given some assurances that he will get some first-team game time, as he told the official site “This is just the start and it’s given me a good platform to go and showcase my talent this season and really push on. I’m delighted and happy to be here and it shows the confidence the club and staff have in me by giving me this deal. I want to play a big part this season, I want to achieve big things in front of the fans and make the people around me proud.”

Let's hope we have similar success in hanging onto the best of our other young talent, though if we don’t, the 49ers have the resources to bring replacements to the club if need be. And the better the start we make, the better the chance of persuading the squad that it’s worth hanging around for the chance to play for Leeds in the Premier League in 2024/5.


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