Quiet Leeds United transfer desire could become biggest controversy as vultures circle

-Credit: (Image: Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Leeds United’s engine room could end up being one of the quietest departments this summer, or one of the most controversial. Ethan Ampadu is the cornerstone of the squad and Daniel Farke’s key lieutenant on the pitch.

The 23-year-old started every league game last season and is only one year into the four-year deal he committed to last summer. The Wales international has already indicated his intent to return and get the job done next season via his social media profiles.

Ampadu does not stand out as someone who will move this summer. Archie Gray is where it gets interesting. The 18-year-old is the club’s crown jewel and Paraag Marathe, sensibly, could not categorically rule out selling Gray this summer.

READ MORE: Leeds United transfer pieces helpfully fall into place for Farke ahead of pre-season

The teenager has the ability to be a generational talent for England and after one season of senior football has had Gareth Southgate dropping his name in press conferences. Regardless of how we feel with our West Yorkshire sympathies, the wider football world sees an immense talent playing outside of Europe’s big five leagues for a club that is under some pressure to raise money this summer.

Interest is there, bids will almost certainly land for Gray, but how hard will Leeds push to keep the vultures at bay? Much could depend on which of Gray’s team-mates attract interest. If they can raise the money they need through other sales, virtually any other player would be a preferred exit on the terraces.

The Red Bull investment has eased those pressures, but the likes of Crysencio Summerville and Wilfried Gnonto are going to be major considerations for Marathe et al. The chairman said he and the board were mindful of the fan feeling behind every decision they make. The backlash would be something else if Gray, the apple of everyone’s eye, was sold.

If he can be retained, Gray is arguably the player Farke builds around. The academy graduate was better than impressive at right-back in his maiden senior campaign, but his future is in midfield and this second go in the second tier could be an ideal proving ground for Gray as the heartbeat in the line-up.

We know Gray and Ampadu can complement one another. Glen Kamara and Ilia Gruev are also more than capable of doing a job in a competitive area of the pitch for Leeds. At their best, the Finn and the Bulgarian were outstanding last season.

Like Ampadu, Kamara does not feel like someone who is going to court much interest this summer and will figure regularly again next season. The strange chatter around Borussia Dortmund and Gruev subsided very quickly and he should still be here for the start of the season.

Should that level of interest in Gruev become more concrete, he might be an asset Leeds can deliver a profit on, given how small his fee was last summer. That quartet did not deliver enough goals last season. If Farke wants to make an improvement in this department, that’s what he needs to go for.

Jamie Shackleton was the fifth-choice in the middle last season and has one week remaining on his Whites contract. Farke is keen to retain his work rate and versatility, but it would be a surprise if he signed up to spend more valuable years of his career as a bit-part player.

Darko Gyabi arrived from Manchester City with some fanfare, but he failed to sufficiently impress when Farke gave him opportunities last August. There are two years left on his deal and another loan or sale this summer would not be a huge surprise.

Gyabi could foreseeably be someone Leeds regret losing in the years ahead, but, right now, as a Championship promotion contender, it’s hard to see how he fits into the picture. Charlie Crew will hope to make something like the strides Gray made last season.

The Wales international seems more likely to stick around as a squad option under Farke than move out on loan, at least next season. Marc Roca is the last of the senior midfielders and he will complete a permanent switch to Real Betis imminently.