Leeds United believe they can still secure the signing of Charles De Ketelaere after AC Milan and Club Brugges saw their self-inflicted deadline pass without a deal being struck for the forward.
The 21-year-old has found himself a man in demand this summer with Leeds and Milan both pushing hard to sign him. The Whites, fuelled with the cash from the sales of Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips, have already made seven signings this summer. But the potential addition of De Ketelaere could prove the jewel in the crown.
The Belgium forward has won an army of admirers for his superb performances for the Belgian side, scoring 18 times last season and adding 10 assists. He can play across the frontline, on either wing and behind the centre forward as a No 10. But it is in a central striker role that Leeds want him, with the Whites launching a straight £31.5m bid.
Milan, by contrast, have seen two bids rejected, while a third – launched after Paolo Maldini travelled to Brugges on Wednesday – has also fallen short of Leeds’.
As it stands, the bid from Leeds is the only offer to be accepted.
However, the player’s preference remains with AC Milan. He is doing all he can to persuade his club bosses to accept their offer. But with time ticking on, Milan and Brugges wanted the deal wrapped before Sunday evening.
Their latest offer, though, remains unaccepted – meaning Milan may yet call time on the move. Indeed, they have a Plan B in the shape of Chelsea star Hakim Ziyech.
Leeds still hoping to persuade Charles De Ketelaere
As such, the Daily Mail claims Leeds remain very much in the hunt for De Ketelaere and have not given up hope of securing a deal.
The Mail claims they still believe the lure of the Premier League can convince De Ketelaere to reconsider his aims of joining Milan.
And if they do move on to their next target, the player will be forced into a rethink regardless.
Despite that claim, RTL journalist Alexandre Braeckmann reckons Leeds still have work to do to persuade De Ketelaere.
Asked if De Ketelaere can sign for Leeds, he told the Just Joe Football Show: “Of course. There is still a possibility that De Ketelaere can come to Leeds and use his time there as a stepping stone.
“All we can say right now is that Charles has chosen to play for Milan. They remain his top priority, but that’s not the situation that it was before, because he knows that Milan are struggling to secure a deal.
“He continues to push hard, his representaives too keep asking Brugges to accept Milan’s offer.
“But De Ketelaere knows that the Premier League is the biggest championship in the world. He’s talking a lot with Belgium superstars [about life in England] and Kevin De Bruyne is never saying ‘no, don’t come here’. But he knows he’s already good enough to play for Milan – that’s the reality.
“[As a player] He can do anything. But if there is no deal [with Milan] he has two choices, two possibilities. He can either stay with Brugges, play in the Champions League but risk them finishing third or fourth.
“Or at the same time, he can choose to make the move to Leeds United. He knows it is a good platform for him. He will be able to learn, he will have time to improve further and he will have a good coach [in Jesse Marsch].
“But at the same time, it is not clear if Charles De Ketelaere will, or will not, accept this project.”
Leeds have other targets in mind
Leeds have reportedly to have agreed a fee with PSG for young forward Arnaud Kalimuendo should their offer for De Ketelaere fail.
The 20-year-old scored 13 times across 35 appearances while on loan at Lens last season. And he has come back into the PSG ranks by scoring twice during their pre-season tour of Japan.
However, the Daily Mail insists Leeds are also still looking at two other players should a move for De Ketelaere fail.
Leeds in battle for Charles De Ketelaere
Leeds are in a battle with AC Milan for Belgian youngster Charles De Ketelaere.
They believe Leeds are still on the trail of Cody Gakpo, whom they looked at prior to Luis Sinisterra. The Netherlands winger is the reigning Player of the Year in the Eredivise, scoring 21 times and adding 15 assists.
The paper also claims Leeds will also consider a move for Adama Traore. He has been a long-term target of Victor Orta, with Wolves preparing to let him leave for a bargain fee this summer.