Not so long ago, it appeared that Ollie Watkins was likely to be one of the first new faces through the door at Elland Road this summer. Instead, Leeds United fans have been treated to a who’s who of ‘who’s that’ with Mateusz Klich and Felix Wiedwald set to be joined in West Yorkshire by Huesca forward Samu Saiz.
Meanwhile, Exeter City winger Watkins appears to have been left by the wayside. Now, after months of speculation, HITC sources are telling us that the 21-year-old appears set to join a Championship rival instead with Brentford, who failed to agree a deal in January, rekindling their interest.
Ollie Watkins scored more goals than any Leeds player other than Chris Wood last season
Why Leeds have not followed through on their initial curiosity is anyone’s guess. Watkins is one of the most exciting prospects in the football league and, after scoring an impressive 16 goals to help Exeter reach the play-off final, was rightly announced as League Two’s Young Player of the Season.
Furthermore, his frightening pace, dribbling ability and dead-eye finishing appeared to make him a perfect fit for a Leeds side whose overreliance upon Chris Wood cost them a place in the play-offs last season. According to The Sun (page 61, 21st May), Exeter would demand £4 million for their prized asset. However, with potential by the bucketload, Watkins could have been worth every penny.
Yet, since the departure of Garry Monk, and the establishment of a new recruitment team headed by former Middlesbrough scout Victor Orta, Leeds appear to have turned their attention towards rather more left-field targets.
A case in point; while Brentford attempt to land one of England’s most exciting prospects, the Yorkshire Evening Post reports that Leeds are prioritising Macedonian international winger Ezgjan Alioski, who represents Lugano in the Swiss top flight.
Brentford manager Dean Smith could make Leeds pay
Only time will tell whether they will regret taking their eye of the ball.