How and why Garry Monk engineered Sol Bamba’s exit from Leeds United

GONE: Sol Bamba. Picture by Tony Johnson
GONE: Sol Bamba. Picture by Tony Johnson
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GARRY MONK insists former club captain Sol Bamba left the club on good terms – despite the surprise nature of his departure from Elland Road.

Leeds caused surprise by releasing the centre-back a day after the closure of the summer transfer window last week, terminating his contract by mutual consent, but Monk said he had instigated the move after Bamba lost his place in the first-team squad.

Leeds United manager Garry Monk.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Leeds United manager Garry Monk. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Bamba, who had been with Leeds since January 2015 and held a deal until the end of the season, failed to make United’s 18 for their 3-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest before the international break, falling out of favour due to a run of poor performances and results.

Monk asked Leeds to look for opportunities for Bamba elsewhere but a move failed to materialise before FIFA’s window closed on August 31. The decision to release him was made the following afternoon, with Leeds saying Bamba was leaving Elland Road for “personal reasons.”

Bamba - an Ivory Coast international who turned 31 earlier this year - returned to France to spend time with his family and is now beginning the search for a new club.

“I’m here to get the squad to where it needs to be,” Monk said. “There are tough decision to be made. That’s my job and that’s what I’ve been brought in to do.

GOODBYE: Former Leeds United captain, Sol Bamba

GOODBYE: Former Leeds United captain, Sol Bamba

“I spoke with Sol and I told him that I didn’t think it was a good situation for him not being in the squad, that it wouldn’t be a healthy situation. I asked the club to find a solution and he understood that. They came to an agreement.

“He wasn’t in the squad against Nottingham Forest so we had a good discussion. I didn’t think it was very healthy for that situation to continue. Sol understood totally where I was coming from.”

Bamba was an outspoken member of the squad at Leeds, openly criticising Massimo Cellino’s running of the club on two occasions. He and Monk worked together for almost three months after United’s head coach was appointed as Steve Evans’ successor at the start of June.

“We wish him all the best,” Monk said. “He was fantastic in terms of me coming to a new club and helping me understand what it had been like before.

“These are the decisions you have to make and whatever decisions I make, they’ll always be for the good of the group and the good of the club.”

Bamba captained United from an early stage of his career at Elland Road and he retained the armband at the start of this term, despite the likelihood of Monk signing other centre-backs to replace him.

Midfielder Liam Bridcutt is widely seen as favourite to replace Bamba as skipper and Monk said: “I’ve decided. It’s for me to share that with the group first.

“There were a few candidates but the captaincy is a big thing. I hold that position in high prestige. I highly regard it.”

Bamba’s exit left three central defenders on the books at Leeds - Kyle Bartley, Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper - and asked if he was happy with the depth of options, Monk said: “Yes, clearly.

“Every manager would love to have more numbers but I’m happy with the decision and we go with the squad we’ve got.

“The club deserve credit for the way they’ve worked in this window. We’ve moved 11 players out, we’ve brought 11 in and that’s never easy to do.

“Ideally I would have loved to have added another striker, that would have made that area more competitive, but the club deserve credit for what they’ve done. Overall it’s been a successful window.”

Eunan O’Kane became Leeds’ 11th new recruit on deadline day, signing from Bournemouth on a two-year deal. The midfielder won two promotions with Bournemouth and broke into the Republic of Ireland squad during his time at Dean Court.

Attempts to bring in West Ham United forward Ashley Fletcher and Arsenal striker Yaya Sanogo came to nothing but Monk said: “Eunan is a really good signing. He’s already got experience of promotion from this league and he’s a very good player in his own right.

“He’ll add massive quality to what we do. We can’t rely on guys with zero experience to play 40, 50 games. It’s not fair on them.”