Leeds United are ready to raise the stakes over their interest in classy Club Brugges forward Charles De Ketelaere, according to a trusted source.
The Whites narrowly escaped relegation on a tense, yet ultimately jubliant, final day of the 2021/22 season. That win at Brentford ensured it was Burnley instead who suffered the dreaded drop. And it seems their close shave with demotion is an experience all at Leeds don’t want to suffer a repeat of.
As such, Leeds are exploring ways to further strengthen their squad going into the new season. And Leeds have made early inroads by adding Brenden Aaronson, Rasmus Kristensen and Marc Roca to their squad. All three signings look quality additions to a squad that badly lacked depth last season.
However, their plans for a significant summer spree will likely see sacrifices made. To that end, talismanic midfielder Kalvin Phillips will shortly soon complete a club-record departure to Manchester City.
He may not be the only big-name Leeds player to depart either. Star Brazilian winger Raphinha is also a man in demand, with Arsenal ready to step up their hunt.
Were he to depart, Leeds may find their coffers swelled to the tune of £100m, with the Phillips money also factored in.
And Leeds have grand schemes to bring in a number of talented players in their place and with their additional funds.
One player seemingly top of their wanted list is De Ketelaere. The Club Brugges man finds himself a man in demand, with AC Milan and Leicester also seemingly keen.
De Ketelaere comes into sharp focus for Leeds
The 21-year-old bagged 14 goals and seven assists over the 2021/22 campaign, winning a league title and becoming a regular in the Belgium national squad.
Compared to Kevin De Bruyne, it’s easy to see why he’s a man in demand.
However, despite claims De Ketelaere does not fancy a move to Leeds, the Whites are reportedly set to step up their interest.
As per The Athletic’s Phil Hay, Leeds director of football Victor Orta is now seemingly ready to up their interest ahead of a potential bid in the coming days.
In a tweet, Hay reported: “Leeds United increasingly serious about Club Brugge’s Charles De Ketelaere, with Arsenal stepping up interest in Raphinha. Viewed as a forward. In the market for a winger too if Raphinha leaves.”
Brugges reportedly value De Ketelaere at around £27m, a fee which would not put Leeds off if a deal could be negotiated.
Exciting, yet uncertain times for Leeds United
If Leeds do sell Raphinha alongside Phillips, they will have two enormous holes to fill in their squad.
However, the calibre of names Leeds are being linked with certainly makes for what should be exctiting few weeks for the club. De Ketelaere would be an elite signing for the club were the Whites to get that one done.
Granted, he may have ideas well above Leeds United. And the interest from Milan offers the player immediate Champions League football. Why turn that down, you might ask.
Well, De Ketelaere needs only to look at the way Leeds have turned relative unknowns Illan Meslier and Raphinha into established stars. And Charles De Ketelaere could see a two-year stint at Leeds as the platform to do much bigger and better things. At just 21, he certainly has that time on his hands and may not yet feel ready for a club the size of Milan.
And were Leeds to make a formal offer, the might well find it a case of the early bird catches the worm.
If Hay is right and Leeds do see the Belgian as a forward option, that also opens the possibility of a winger signing in place of Raphinha. To that end, United are reportedly keen on PSV’s Cody Gakpo.
He is another high quality young talent, having enjoyed a sublime season in the Eredivisie.
They will also want to bring in a quality replacement for Phillips too. RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams and Mohamed Camara of RB Salzburg are both reportedly on their radar.