Leeds United manager Daniel Farke has favoured Pascal Struijk and Spurs loanee Joe Rodon as his centre-back partnership at Elland Road this season, with the duo racking more than 4,000 minutes between them. Club captain Liam Cooper has also played his part, with 637 minutes under his belt, but Charlie Cresswell has effectively been ousted from the first-team picture.
Cresswell hasn’t featured at all for Leeds – in any competition – since a late substitute appearance in a 1-0 win over QPR at the start of October, and his last Championship start came in a 1-0 defeat to Birmingham City in August. Speaking earlier this month, Farke said that the Englishman had shown a lack of focus and complained about his position in the defensive hierarchy.
The manager has decided not to pick him unless that stance changes, and there’s a possibility that the 21-year-old could move on. Farke is “adamant” that Leeds should have four senior centre-backs in their squad, so that could open the door for a new face, and Ben Godfrey has emerged as a possible candidate.
Leeds rival European giants for Godfrey
According to Italian outlet Calciomercato, Leeds are interested in Godfrey at Everton, as are Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United. Both teams are said to be “on the trail” of the former Norwich man and could swoop in to steal him from Serie A outfit Atalanta.
They face more competition on the continent too from AC Milan, sitting third-place in Serie A and long-term admirers of Godfrey. Milan ideally want to sign Clement Lenglet, currently on loan at Aston Villa from Barcelona, but his salary could be an insurmountable obstacle.
Intermediaries have now offered them the chance to sign Godfrey, who had been “very close” to joining fellow Italian side Atalanta. That transfer was “agreed in detail” but it’s now been “ruined” by “soaring costs”. Leeds, Sheffield United and Milan all fancy hijacking the deal.
“Tremendous” Godfrey can rediscover top form at Leeds
After coming through at York City, Godfrey joined Norwich in 2016 and spent four years at Carrow Road before Everton signed him in a £25m deal. He’s since played 80 games for the Toffees, but he’s hardly had a look-in this year with just one Premier League start (in a 2-0 win over Burnley in mid-December).
Frustratingly, he’s been fit and healthy too, making the squad for every single top-flight game but simply failing to earn the faith of manager Sean Dyche. From that standpoint, a loan or indeed a permanent exit would make sense.
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If he does move to Elland Road, Leeds would hope he could rediscover the form he was showing in his final stretch at Norwich, which earned him a £25m move, and his first year at Everton. BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty said he’d been a “revelation” after his arrival at Goodison Park, while fellow journalist Jonathan Northcroft hailed him as a “tremendous athlete” and pundit Rio Ferdinand applauded his “great” 1 v 1 abilities.
Indeed, Godfrey was successful 65.9% of the time when he went to tackle a dribbler, the eighth-best record in the league that year. His performances earned him the club’s young player of the season award, and perhaps he can get back to that level with a needed move.