Leeds rival Aston Villa, Saints for signing as defender cuts tie with Everton

Everton's Thierry Small during the Emirates FA Cup fourth round match at Goodison Park, v Sheffield Wednesday

Leeds are reportedly firmly in the mix to sign former Everton defender Thierry Small – but face competition from two Premier League rivals in Aston Villa and Southampton.

Small became Everton’s youngest ever debutant in an FA Cup game against Sheffield Wednesday in January. Since then, a number of clubs have been monitoring his progress. He is yet to add to his maiden first-team appearance, but other clubs can see a pathway for him.

Now the 17-year-old has cancelled his two-year scholarship at Everton – clearing the path for other clubs to sign him.

Small made the decision to leave with his representatives and his exit was not through choice by Everton.

That has now opened the door up for a move elsewhere, though Everton will be entitled to a fee.

As recently as last month, it was claimed that Manchester United and Arsenal were leading the race to sign him. But previous reports suggested he would prefer to move somewhere like Leeds, who were also said to be keen in April.

Since then, Southampton have also been strongly linked with a move.

Saints have already bolstered their ranks with youngsters from other clubs this summer – for example, Dynel Simeu and Tino Livramento from Chelsea’s U23s. Small could be the next they look to.

The report claims he would become part of their B team to start with, but first-team opportunities may come quicker than elsewhere. At present, Southampton’s only senior left-back is Romain Perraud after the summer release of Ryan Bertrand.

Aston Villa are also keen though and also hope to persuade the teenager to move to the Midlands.

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However, as per The Athletic, it is Leeds who are most keen. They signed a first-team left-back this summer in the form of Junior Firpo.

The former Barcelona man has made a slow start to his Leeds career, though. He was substituted during Saturday’s draw with Everton.

And Leeds do have a lack of depth to cover the position too.

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Leeds need left-back cover

While Stuart Dallas can cover the position, he’s now considered a midfielder by Marcelo Bielsa.

Furthermore, Leeds don’t have a specialist in that role in their U23s set-up. Indeed, Mark Jackson’s side often play Liam McCarron, a winger, in that role.

Leeds have recruited heavily in their youth with Amari Miller, Lewis Bate and Sean McGurk all signing this summer.

There’s a growing feeling that Small could be the next to sign.

And with a clear path to the first-team awaiting him, Small is thought, in some quarters, to favour Leeds.

Leeds would first need to agree compensation with Everton over his signing. However, they effectively have a clear path to his signing with Small able to choose his next club.

And in the failure to agree compensation, the transfer would then go before a tribunal to decide the outcome.

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