By George Overhill

24th Jul, 2022 | 8:10pm

Leeds United battle with AC Milan for Charles De Ketelaere will finally be over by Friday

The long-running saga that has seen Leeds United chase Club Bugge’s Charles De Ketelaere will end in failure this week, according to Alessandro Schiavone.

The journalist, who writes for The Sun among others, claims that the young Belgian will force through a move to his preferred destination and sign for the Italian champions AC Milan by Friday (29 July).

It appears that despite offering more money, over the asking price, the Whites are set to lose out on a player who has never looked interested in a move to Elland Road.

United have been willing to offer €37million [£31.4million] for the 21-year-old international forward despite Bruges only asking €35million, while Milan didn’t want to go beyond €30million with bonuses [£25.5million] according to Gazetta dello Sport on Friday (22 July).

But according to Schiavone on Sunday the Italians will up their offer slightly, which will be enough to seal the deal at last in combination with pressure from the player.

He wrote on Twitter: “De Ketelaere will force the hand with Bruges this week and will be an AC Milan play by Friday. Increasing the offer by 1 million to €33m + a 10% resale clause will be the clinchers to persuade”.

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So if as expected the Whites end up empty-handed despite maintaining what looked like a hopeless pursuit they will have to move fast to secure one of their alternative targets.

There are clear parallels with the drawn-out ordeal that saw Raphinha eventually move to Barcelona, as the Camp Nou was always the player’s preferred destination.

Chelsea offered more money and had a bid accepted at Elland Road, but it ultimately made no difference because the winger had his heart set on Barca.

In the De Ketelaere race Leeds have been playing the Chelsea role, offering more money but apparently not convincing the player.

In this case there is even the added aspect of the forward saying early on he wasn’t interested in the Whites move [Alexandre Braeckman], something which Raphinha never explicitly did.

Given such a clear, recent example of how such a dynamic was likely to work it makes the decision to linger in the hope of landing De Ketelaere all the more confusing.

Perhaps they know something that nobody on the outside did, but the news coming out of Italy and Belgium didn’t suggest that.

Jesse Marsch needs an additional option up front, with Patrick Bamford’s injury history a constant worry, and Joe Gelhardt, for all his talent, still relatively inexperienced.

Should the senior man be ruled out again it would be a lot to ask Joffy, or fellow youngster Sam Greenwood, to shoulder the load.

The club appear to be close to a deal for Arnaud Kalimuendo despite disagreement in Paris as to whether they want to keep him or not, so they really need to move quickly and tie that one up, or find another alternative if the manager is going to get anyone in time for the start of the season.

If the apparently inevitable result from the De Ketelaere pursuit comes to pass it will mean it was wasted time and energy going after an unreachable target when the writing seemed to be on the wall weeks ago.

In other Leeds United news, another key option to strengthen the goalscoring department’s views on a move have emerged with a deal ready to go to bring him to Elland Road.