Willy Gnonto begins Leeds United 'reintegration' after transfer request and refusal to play amidst Everton interest

Leeds United manager Daniel Farke appears to be winning the battle over Willy Gnonto after the Italy striker was "reintegrated" into the first-team squad.

Farke revealed last week the forward was training on his own and changing in a separate room after making himself unavailable for the Whites' last three matches and handing in a transfer request to try to force a move away.

But the German has been down this road before with Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell at Norwich City. Both were left out of the squad in August 2020 after demanding moves, but were successfully brought back to play key parts in a Championship-winning side.

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Leeds have consistently refused to sell their brightest young talent.

The first signs that history could be repeating itself came when it emerged on Tuesday evening that Gnonto had returned to training – and to the first-team dressing room at Thorp Arch – after talks with Farke and chief executive Angus Kinnear.

Gnonto was an unexpected signing last summer, his planned mid-season transfer from Zurich brought forward when the Whites failed to land more senior attacking targets.

He was signed for a knockdown £4m on a (relatively) low-wage five-year contract which therefore did not include a wage cut if the club were relegated from the Premier League, as was the case in May.

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Most of his team-mates suffered that fate, and for many the blow was softened by release clauses making Leeds powerless to stop them leaving if certain conditions were met.

BACK IN THE RANKS: Leeds United's Willy GnontoBACK IN THE RANKS: Leeds United's Willy Gnonto
BACK IN THE RANKS: Leeds United's Willy Gnonto

Gnonto went on to become one of the star performers of Jesse Marsch's time as manager, though successors Javi Gracia and Sam Allardyce seemed surprisingly indifferent to his talents, without ever adequately explaining why.

So when he saw a string of team-mates move to top-division clubs at home and abroad, Gnonto asked to leave too, but was refused.

His agent revealed earlier this week Leeds had refused to entertain offers from Premier League clubs.

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Everton are thought to have made multiple bids for the 19-year-old, and Atalanta have been credited with an interest after selling Rasmus Hjoland to Manchester United.

Farke said earlier in the month he would only pick players committed to playing for Leeds, but if Gnonto can convince him of that, he could face Ipswich Town in Saturday's Championship game at Portman Road.

Having spent most of last season on the wing, an injury crisis saw the diminutive Gnonto picked at centre-forward on the opening day of the season and perform relatively well in the 2-2 draw with Cardiff City. It was in the build-up to the next game, a League Cup tie at home to Shrewsbury Town, that he first declared himself unavailable for selection.

Later that week, Luis Sinisterra also made himself unavailable.

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Gnonto submitted a written transfer request last Friday ahead of the Championship clash with West Bromwich Albion.

His stance has unsurprisingly gone down badly with supporters, some of whom created a huge banner depicting the forward as a baby. Others took a more blunt approach, with one sign at Friday's game simply reading: "Play or Farke off".

Winning over supporters will be the next challenge in Gnonto's reintegration but at this stage it looks like Leeds' chances of keeping him for the rest of 2023 have considerably improved.