By George Overhill

20th Feb, 2023 | 8:36pm

Leeds United deny Carlos Corberan links, line up emergency interim Javi Gracia

Javi Gracia is a “strong candidate” to become interim Leeds United boss but the club have denied they were ever in for Carlos Corberan, The Telegraph reports.

Having sacked Jesse Marsch on 6 February after defeat to Nottingham Forest the Whites have missed out on multiple replacement options as the situation has become increasingly desperate, with former Watford boss Gracia now belatedly being lined up to the end of the season.

The board have sprung to life again after a 1-0 loss at Everton with Michael Skubala in caretaker charge left the club in the relegation zone, with Fabrizio Romano reporting talks with the Spaniard on Monday (20 February).

The manager hunt has incorporated the likes of Andoni Iraola at Rayo Vallecano and Arne Slot at Feyenoord, before Skubala was left in charge when no early approaches paid off.

The search appeared to get off to a rough start when immediate frontrunner Corberan [90min, 6 February], whom Romano had named on the shortlist the day Marsch was sacked, signed a new deal at The Hawthorns to rule himself out.

But Jason Burt writes in The Telegraph that the club are denying he was ever in the running, saying in his report on Gracia Monday (20 February): “Leeds are adamant that Carlos Corberán was never a candidate for the job with the Spaniard having signed a new contract with West Bromwich Albion after the links surfaced.”

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Face saving

Perhaps in Gracia the club have belatedly come across an option to at least take charge for the rest of the season after coming up empty elsewhere.

It seems hard to believe that that there was nothing to the Corberan links, which were widely reported, especially since it would be an amazing coincidence for the Baggies to give him a new contract at that point if they were just rumours.

Whether he was in the running or not doesn’t change the fact that at this stage it is now a complete failure of a process.

And if anything, the denial raises more questions, in that the Spaniard has done a strong job in resurrecting the Championship side and has a past at Elland Road, so if he wasn’t a candidate he probably should have been.

If the board were going to sack Marsch in early February they had to have irons in the fire to replace him, but what has followed hasn’t inspired the slightest confidence.

Skubala can’t be held responsible for not being up to a job he wasn’t expecting in the first place, and the fact that Gracia, or anyone else, is only now an option after the club tried to muddle through with the under-21s boss shows what a mess this has been.

If the ex-Hornets man comes in and saves the day then it will be a huge relief to the fans, but it won’t reflect well on the decision-makers either way.

In other Leeds United news, click here to see breaking, around-the-clock updates on Leeds’ search for a new manager in our interactive live blog.

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