Leeds United are refusing to give up on their pursuit for Charles De Ketelaere despite claims the player only has eyes for AC Milan.
The talented 21-year-old is the subject of serious transfer interest from Leeds. Jesse Marsch’s side have been one of the most active sides in the summer window, bringing in five new signings so far. A sixth – in Luis Sinisterra – is also closing in, despite a warning that Leeds may be paying over the odds for his fee.
The Whites are certainly going about their business in a forthright manner. After their narrow brush with relegation last season, the club has recognised the need to seriously strengthen their squad to avoid a repeat. To that end, their transfers so far are pretty eye-catching.
However, it is a new striker that they desperately crave. With Patrick Bamford only managing 560 minutes of Premier League football last season, the Whites lacked a real presence up front. Winger Daniel James filled in over large periods, but his lack of presence and know-how in the position did Leeds no favours.
As such, the need for a replacement is obvious and their interest in De Ketelaere well documented. However, Leeds are far from the only side taking a keen interest in the forward. Premier League rivals Leicester have tracked the player for the best part of a year.
AC Milan are also strongly linked. The Serie A champions have seen an opening offer for the player rejected.
De Ketelaere, though, appears adamant that his future lies in Italy. With his representative in talks with technical director Paulo Maldini, the Rossoneri appear in the driving seat over his signing.
Financial issues, however, may prove their undoing. Their opening offer, worth a total of £17.2m (€20m), has been swiftly rejected. And while they could launch a bigger bid, Leeds look like they have already blown them out of the water.
Indeed, Leeds’ opening offer was reportedly said to total a whopping £30m (€35m) with bonuses. That offer includes a downpayment worth £25.7m (€25m).
Leeds refusing to give up
However, RTL journalist Alexandre Braeckman claims Leeds’ offer is actually worth more. He says the Whites have made it known to Club Brugge they are willing to go as high as £31.5m (€37m) with bonuses. That would represent a club-record deal for Leeds United. It would also set a new domestic transfer record in Belgian football.
And while De Ketealaere has made it clear his preference lies with Milan, Braeckman claims Leeds refuse to give up on his signing. He insists Leeds are convinced Milan will not be able to match their offer and prefer to sell De Ketelaere to them.
Milan may still raise their bid, but Braeckman is adamant that will not exceed £25.6m (€30m).
The situation appears to have reached an impasse and is showing no signs of resolving any time soon.
Furthermore, Italian journalist Sacha Tavolieri is adamant that the player’s only wish is to sign for Milan.
“Now De Ketelaere’s choice is clear: he wants to go to Milan,” he told Calciomercato.it.
“De Ketelaere doesn’t want to go to Leeds; he wants to play the Champions League with Milan.
“We can say that €25m, bonuses, a percentage on resale, the player’s pressing, and De Ketelaere goes to Milan.
“De Ketelaere no longer wants to play on the right or left; he wants to be in the centre of the game.”
Brugges line up Charles De Ketelaere replacement
Wherever he ends up, Brugges are seemingly preparing for the departure of De Ketelaere by lining up a replacement.
As per Gianluca Di Marzio, the Belgian champions are in the market to sign Lazio striker Vedat Muriqi. The Kosovan striker was reportedly the subject of Leeds interest in January, before then-boss Marcelo Bielsa decided against his signing.
He ultimately signed on loan for RCD Mallorca for the rest of the season. Now back at Lazio, the Serie A outfit are looking to offload the 28-year-old for a knockdown fee.
Per Di Marzio, Lazio are seeking just £7.6m (€9m) for the 87-goal marksman, with talks between the clubs continuing.
That will also give Leeds increased hope that De Ketelaere will be on the move this summer.
They will also be hoping that noises coming out of the Italian media about Milan do not have much foundation. A similar tactic was employed recently over Milan’s interest in Sven Botman, with the Lille defender ultimately opting for Newcastle. Leeds will hope for a similar outcome over Charles De Ketelaere.