Leeds are reported to have moved onto other striker options after it was claimed Ralph Hassenhuttl had won his battle to keep striker Che Adams at Southampton.
The 23-year-old, yet to score in the Premier League this season following his £15m move from Birmingham City in the summer, has emerged as Marcelo Bielsa’s number 1 target to replace Eddie Nketiah, who has returned to Arsenal ahead of a loan move elsewhere.
The forward is a proven scorer in the second tier, netting 22 times in the Championship for Birmingham last season, with Leeds’ latest offer – reported to have been submitted last week – yet to be accepted or rejected by the south coast club.
The offer from Leeds is believed to be a loan to buy, with United reported to be willing to pay £1million to take Adams to Elland Road now, before the deal becomes a permanent £10million arrangement at the end of the season.
With the player known to be keen to make the move to Elland Road – Adams has played in just 646 of the 1,980 Premier League minutes available this season – Leeds were thought to be relatively confident of landing the player before the end of the week.
However, despite the Saints board being of the mind to accept Leeds’ offer, the one major obstacle said to be blocking Leeds’ path now is that of Saints boss Hassenhuttl.
That’s because the Austrian has, twice, very publicly declared his desire to keep the player, with Hassenhuttl last week declaring: “I cannot consider that I loan him out because I need every player, especially in the attacking position, we don’t have that many.
“I know he is not so happy at the moment because he didn’t play so often and did not score, but we know what we have with him and we know we need him in the second half of the season.”
Unfortunately for Leeds, Hassenhuttl’s stock at the club has rarely been higher after an unbeaten run of six games that culminated in Saturday’s impressive 2-1 win at Leicester that further eased their relegation concerns and it’s suggested their board are against the idea of upsetting their manager.
And it’s now reported in a number of newspapers that Hassenhuttl has indeed won his battle with the Saints board to keep the player at St Mary’s – and forcing Leeds to abandon their chase.
As such, Leeds are now reported to have moved on to other transfer targets, amid fears the Adams chase could result in the same disappoint that saw them miss out on Daniel James at the 11th hour last January.
Those reports have been corroborated by The Athletic’s Leeds correspondent Phil Hay, who tweeted on Wednesday morning that while it was made clear to them [Leeds] that Adams was interested and Southampton’s hierarchy were also minded to take the money, the move has been blocked by Hasenhuttl and that it would be very brave on Southampton’s part to stitch him up.
Furthermore, Hay claims Leeds have been “on with other targets in the past 48 hours as the club can’t let this be a repeat of Dan James”.
Of the other targets, Leeds are understood to have an interest in Billy Sharp, though convincing him to quit Bramall Lane – despite his lack of game time – could prove difficult.
Speaking (via the Mirror), Blades boss Chris Wilder said of his forward: “It’s understandable that there’s interest in Billy because of his track record as a goalscorer.
“I’ve always been very consistent with the message that until Billy comes to me and says he has to play regular first-team football, then he will be with us. And he hasn’t done that.
“We’ve had calls off people elsewhere and enquiries and I’m always open and honest with Bill.
“I’ve told him this or that club has come in for him, but he has always said no and that he wants to stay here until at least the end of the season.”
Leeds are also understood to be keen on Watford’s former Burnley striker Andre Gray.