Leeds’ academy has brought through some fine young talent in recent seasons and it is this young talent which has kept the club going through recent struggles. There are 4 academy graduates in the current starting XI and a couple more on the fringes trying to force their way in. It seems the midfield duo of Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt will still be here come September with both looking to push on this year, while Charlie Taylor still seems short of the experience to warrant any interest from the league above. This just leaves Sam Byram as the young star attracting interest and there will most probably be rumours about him leaving right up to the transfer window closing.
Byram turns 22 in September and has been a fixture in Leeds’ starting XI-when fit- for 3 full seasons now. I was at his first league game, a 1-0 win at home against Wolves, and it was clear from the start that the energetic full back would be a fan favourite at Elland Road.
In that game he was up against an England international in Matt Jarvis who at the time was being heavily linked with a move back to the Premier League, which duly came a week after playing against Byram. The fact Jarvis moved on for £10.75 million to West Ham shows the pedigree of player Byram was up against on debut and how well he coped with situation is a testament to his character.
Despite a couple of injuries in his second and third season Byram has continued to progress year on year and has developed into an attacking outlet for Leeds and now looks set to line up on the right wing in this campaign should he stay. The young right sided player has been linked with teams such as Arsenal and Man City over the years, but the interest this summer seems to have come from more mid table Premier League teams such as Everton, Newcastle and Sunderland.
The rumoured fee for the player has varied from £2 million all the way up to £8 million, but the most likely would probably be somewhere between £3 and £4 million, bearing in mind his contract is up next Summer. Although compensation would be due next summer so Byram still wouldn’t be a free transfer, this compensation fee decided by a tribunal would likely be around £3 million so Leeds are unlikely to fetch much more than that this summer.
Everton is a link that has cropped up a couple of times over the years and it would seem Byram would be on Everton’s list of replacements should they decide to cash in on Seamus Coleman. Both are young British full backs and Byram would fit the mould in which Roberto Martinez likes his full backs to operate. However, Everton seem likely to keep Coleman now as Man United were the big club rumoured to be after the Republic of Ireland international but they have since signed a right back in Matteo Darmian for an undisclosed fee from Torino. Since that signing there has been much less talk of Coleman leaving Merseyside and therefore the rumour of Byram to Everton has also died down in recent weeks.
Sunderland were rumoured to be looking at Byram very closely this summer and this seems to have been the club most likely to make a bid in the early summer. They were in the market for a right back and it seems certain Sam Byram was on their list and would have ticked the boxes required at a team such as Sunderland. However, the North East outfit signed a right back in Adam Matthews from Celtic in July for £2 million. This means they now have 2 right backs in Billy Jones and Adam Matthews so unless Jones moved on it is unlikely a team such as Sunderland would have the budget for 3 right backs in their squad. Similarly, Villa have been linked recently but with Hutton and Bacuna currently in their match day squads one of them would surely have to leave before any substantial interest came in from them.
Another potential suitor could be West Ham. The Hammers have apparently been tracking Leeds’ young full back in recent weeks and they do seemingly have a place available in their team at right back. James Tomkins started for them against Arsenal in that position and could be the answer for Slaven Billic, but with Tomkins being a natural centre half their could yet be a decision made by West Ham to make a right back a priority before the end of August. However, West Ham have made their desire for at least one or preferably two strikers clear and this could take up the bulk of their budget. With Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia both injured they have been linked with Emmanuel Adebayor on loan and a £10 million bid for Javier Hernandez. Transfers such as this are apparently their priority which could prove to be to Leeds’ benefit as they look to keep hold of Byram.
Despite all the clubs previously mentioned, the club most heavily linked with Byram this week has been Newcastle United. There were apparently people from the club at Leeds’ first game of the season watching Leeds’ right sided player and they have been rumoured to have bid in excess of £5 million, although neither club has confirmed this. Although the Magpies do have an international right back in Daryl Janmaat this has not dampened their interest as he could play centre back or they could push Byram out onto the right wing as Steve McClaren looks to stamp his mark on his new club.
Leeds insist the player is not for sale and they do not need to sell any of their young stars. The owner and Adam Pearson have worked hard this summer and seem content with the playing squad, as does Uwe Rosler. Rosler himself said last week of Byram, "He's under contract, he has a manager who really believes in him and he has a chairman who really believes in him. He's found his home. We're not looking to sell him. We're looking to build a future around our young players and he's a big important part of my way of playing and of the idea of this club going forward." Byram seems to be a key player in Rosler’s 4-3-3 formation and the player himself also seems pleased with his new positon further up the field.
A new contract at this point seems unlikely but not impossible. Byram and his representatives were far from happy mid-way through last season when he was offered a new deal for less money and there was a breakdown in negotiations at that point. A new contract has apparently been spoken about this week but there has been no word from Byram’s side whether he is interested in signing, although there has been no transfer request either.
At this stage, it seems unlikely he will leave this window unless a bid in excess of £5 million was to be offered to the club and a suitable replacement can be found. I would also predict no contract being signed by Byram until the season shapes up and our promotion chances can be assessed around Christmas time. I suspect this topic will crop back up come January when his contract has run down even further and the next transfer window opens. If Leeds want to keep Byram past this season it would seem they must make a real push for the top 6 and show Byram he could reach the Premier League with them, whilst also offer him a much better contract then the previous one offered last season. We can dream right?