NEIL WARNOCK insists Leeds United’s on-going attempts to strengthen in the transfer market will not be disrupted by Luciano Becchio’s shock transfer request.
The Elland Road club host Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow in one of the ties of the FA Cup fourth round.
With a crowd of around 30,000 expected and the game to be shown live on ESPN, the focus should be 100 per cent on the football.
However, Becchio’s shock request to leave and the revelation that Leeds have turned down three offers from abroad means supporters are concerned about what may happen between now and the closing of the transfer window at 11pm on Thursday.
Warnock was working hard to bring in new faces before learning Becchio was intent on leaving and is adamant the current uncertainty surrounding the 19-goal Argentinian will not deflect United from trying to complete those deals.
“Nothing changes in that respect, as our targets are the same with or without him,” said the Leeds manager when asked by the Yorkshire Post what difference, if any, the recent turn of events involving Becchio had made.
“There won’t be anyone in until after the Spurs game as the deadline has passed for the Cup. But we are working very hard towards 11pm on Thursday night. By then, we will know. I can’t say any more than that.”
United have been linked with moves for Aston Villa left-back Stephen Warnock and former Leeds player of the year Max Gradel during the last 48 hours.
However, when asked at yesterday’s media conference about possible targets, the Leeds manager replied: “You are always going to get speculation.
“I have just got to wait until we have actually got someone in the building and then announce it. If I said yes or no (to Gradel or Warnock) then I’d be doing that all morning with different names.
“The transfer window is something I can only talk about up to today, but it goes for 31 days.
“That is just as well because it seems to be the last day which is the most interesting one of the lot. I expect there’ll be a lot of activity late on.”
As revealed in yesterday’s Yorkshire Post, China is a possible destination for Becchio with a couple of Super League clubs understood to be very interested in the striker.
A third bid came in for the Argentinian yesterday, but was again rejected by Leeds.
Whether an acceptable offer materialises before the transfer deadline remains to be seen, but Warnock is experienced enough to recognise that Becchio may still have a part to play this season, starting with tomorrow’s Cup tie.
Asked whether he felt the club’s top scorer would be mentally right to face Spurs, the United manager said: “With the experience I have had, I will know more over the next 24 hours as to whether Luciano is able to play.
“But I thought we did brilliant at Birmingham (when Becchio did not play), if I am honest.”
On the future of Leeds’s longest serving player, Warnock added: “We offered a three-and-a-half year contract that is the best we have offered anyone since I arrived. That is all you can do as a club.
“I have had a chat with him and what I said remains private. Luciano was a late starter in football and he has been told figures that he will get from abroad. Those figures could give him security for life. I’d imagine that’s how he’s looking at it.
“But come Thursday night and if we have not accepted an offer, he gets on with it. What I will say is that if he stays after the deadline then I hope that I get more out of him. He has not played very well lately, but I understand that. I had never had a problem before Christmas.
“He even tells me how much he is enjoying it. He’s got more goals in half a season than he gets in an entire season usually.
“Luciano appreciates what I have done for him this season so I don’t have any problem with him. Once the deadline has gone, whatever has been going on will be put to bed until the summer.
“He won’t be going anywhere on loan so the next five or six days will answer all those questions.”
The Becchio saga aside, this weekend promises to be an exciting one in Leeds thanks to the visit of a side who Warnock rates even higher than Chelsea, who just last month overturned a 1-0 half-time deficit to triumph 5-1 at Elland Road in the Capital One Cup quarter-finals.
He said: “I didn’t really enjoy the second half against Chelsea, although in the first half we were superb. Spurs, at the moment, are a better side than Chelsea.
“They are more fluent and far more solid, but we have got to give them a game. I don’t want us to sit back and get beaten. I want us to have a go at them.
“It won’t be easy, though, as Spurs really are an excellent team. When you see them get 61 per cent of the ball against Manchester United (in last Sunday’s 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane), you realise what you are up against.
“I didn’t see a weakness in them last weekend. They are playing with freedom and they are relaxing now that (manager) Andre Villas-Boas has got his feet under the table. I think they’ll be pushing the top two soon.
“If you look at their team from 1 to 11, they have everything that I look for in a team: pace, power, strength and entertainers.”
He added: “Tottenham have always been a glamorous club and this is a glamorous team. It whets the appetite.”