Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch is set to have the last laugh after seeing his side’s swoop for Bamba Dieng hijacked by Nice on deadline day. The forward eventually failed his medical with the French outfit and Leeds are now reportedly poised to sign teenager Wilfried Gnonto, who is already a full Italian international.
Leeds chief Andrea Radrizzani got himself caught up in perhaps deadline day’s most dramatic transfer saga. It emerged early on Thursday that the Whites had struck an agreement with Marseille for Dieng and he was poised to fly to the UK to complete his medical.
While waiting for his private jet to take off at the airport, however, Nice threw their hat into the ring and managed to tempt him into ditching his arrangement with Leeds. Dieng and his entourage promptly arrived in southeastern France only for the 22-year-old to fail his medical and end up back where he started.
For many hours it looked as though Leeds may have to go without a new frontman, which would have been a concern to many given Patrick Bamford’s patchy injury record. But a matter of minutes past the 11pm deadline, transfer expert Fabrizio Romano reported that a deal for Gnonto was all but complete, pending a work permit.
Personal terms are already thought to have been agreed and Leeds have supposedly taken care of the necessary paperwork to beat the cut-off time. Gnonto, 18, has spent the past two seasons in and around the FC Zurich first team.
Last term he scored 10 goals in all competitions and worked his way into the senior Italian national set-up. His first international goal came in a 5-2 defeat to Germany back in June and, despite his lack of experience in one of Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues, he is clearly regarded highly in his homeland.
Gnonto is comfortable playing out wide or through the middle which could bode well for Marsch if he has gaps to fill later in the season. Bamford and Rodrigo have done a solid job of shouldering the goals burden so far this campaign but help could be needed further down the line if they suffer a dip in form or another injury crisis.
At 5ft 7in, the pacey Italian has a low centre of gravity that could make him a tricky customer for opposition defences to deal with. Leeds flirted with the idea signing a host of other strikers over the course of the summer, perhaps most notably Charles De Ketelaere, who ended up signing for AC Milan instead.
Leeds chairman Radrizzani was left red-faced on deadline day as a social media exchange showed that he thought the Dieng deal was done and dusted. “Let’s welcome Bamba Dieng and we will continue to work on [Cody] Gapko,” he wrote on Twitter. “Now it s time to focus on the pitch and support our new project and the great job Jesse and the staff are doing.”
When it later emerged that the Dieng deal had fallen through, he added: “Part of the madness of deadline day. We have been screwed up, it happens even to the best ones. We have done a great market, planned and executed our targets at very early stage. Keep going.”