Relations between Leeds United and Wilfried Gnonto continue to remain frosty with the Italy star still intent on leaving and the player’s agent now criticising the Championship side for their refusal to sanction his sale this summer.
The Whites have seen a raft of players depart Elland Road since relegation was confirmed at the end of May with an astonishing 12 players already leaving from their squad. In the most part, many have left on loans thanks to both clauses in their deals and with Leeds gambling on the player’s increasing their valuations in the intervening season.
However, two – in Tyler Adams and Rodrigo Moreno – have left in permanent deals, generating Leeds around £26m in income.
With just four signings arriving though this summer, new boss Daniel Farke has been forced to stick out something of a patched-up XI in recent weeks. Indeed, the German was only able to name seven substitutes – two of which were keepers – in Friday’s 1-1 draw against West Brom at Elland Road.
One man who does remain on their books, however, is Gnonto. The Italian teenager was one of the club’s rare bright sparks in an otherwise desperate 2022/23 campaign that ultimately ended in relegation.
Signed for just £5.4m from FC Zurich, Leeds had been told they have a ‘future Manchester City player’ on their hands by an excitable Gary Neville.
However, with no exit clauses in his particular deal, Leeds have stood tall in the wake of ongoing speculation over the player’s future. Indeed, Everton have so far seen three offers rejected for Gnonto, the last of which totals a hefty £25m.
And amid claims Tottenham are also pondering a move, Gnonto has handed in a written transfer request to try and convince Leeds to let him move on.
Gnonto agent launches angry attack on Leeds
United, however, refuse to buckle. And their stance that the player – identified by 49ers Enterprises as leading player to help with their promotion push – is simply not for sale.
As a result, Gnonto has made himself unavailable for selection for Leeds’ last three matches, in order to both make his feelings clear and to ensure he does not pick up an injury.
And with relations showing no signs of thawing any time soon, his agent has hit out at Leeds United in sections of the media.
In a radio interview in Italy, Claudio Vigorelli accused Leeds of blocking requests from interested clubs.
He said: “The situation is complicated. Leeds are blocking the requests we have in the Premier League.”
Vigorelli went on to rule out a return to former club Inter Milan for Gnonto, suggesting a move back into the Premier League – with Everton still leading the chase – was the teenager’s preference.
Leeds, meanwhile, continue to be upset with how Gnonto has been advised over the whole saga. They believe that, regardless of their stance over his sale, it remains wrong that the player has made himself unavailable for selection. To that end, there has also been an outpouring of support for Leeds in the media.
Furthermore, Leeds supporters have also made clear their feelings over the player’s unwillingness to play for the club.
Daniel Farke takes strong action over striking player
With Gnonto effectively on strike, boss Farke is seemingly the innocent party caught in the middle.
He, however, has handled all the press and media around Gnonto exceptionally well. And he has not let the situation compromise the united message he is trying to embrace at Elland Road, it has since emerged that Farke has taken a hardline measure with the player himself.
And according to The Athletic, Farke has told Gnonto that he must get changed in his own dressing room and train alone while he continues to request to leave Leeds. Publicly Farke presents quite a soft demeanour; behind the scenes he is understood to be a tough disciplinarian who will not let an individuals actions compromise what he is trying to achieve.
Farke also has experience having gone through a similar situation Emi Buendia at Norwich in summer 2020. The Argentine, wanting to leave Norwich after relegation from the Premier League, ultimately saw the window come and go without the Canaries sanctioning his sale.
With differences later settled, Buendia went on to play an influential role in helping Norwich earn promotion, with the player doing his talking on the pitch.
The Argentine was to later earn his big-money move from Carrow Road, joining Aston Villa for just shy of £40m in summer 2021. And Farke and Co now hope Gnonto could yet follow a similar path at Leeds with the dangle of a future move away the carrot.
In the meantime, and explaining the 49ers’ feelings on the situation, The Athletic’s Phil Hay wrote: “There is frustration within United’s hierarchy with the way Gnonto and his camp have handled the past couple of weeks, not least over things like the timing of his formal transfer request on the night of a match.
“Farke’s history as a coach made it highly likely that he would respond by ostracising Gnonto from his squad. In the past, the German has shown near zero tolerance for anyone trying to force their way out of a club.”
Gnonto has four goals and four assists for Leeds from 29 appearances and is contracted to the Whites until summer 2027.