By George Overhill

31st Jan, 2023 | 4:40pm

Leeds United eye cut-price Nicolo Zaniolo deal with player on the outs in Roma

Leeds United will want a “cut-price” move for Nicolo Zaniolo where they get the “preferential option” because they know he wants to leave, says Ben Jacobs.

The 23-year-old Italy international appears to have burned his bridges at the Stadio Olimpico, failing to turn up for training on the final day of the window without permission from his club [Calcio Mercato, 31 January].

Given the Whites know that the situation is far from serene between Roma and the attacking midfielder Jacobs believes they would be looking to seal a loan-to-buy move on deadline day that is similar to the agreement for Juventus’ Weston McKennie, but below the figures that have so far been quoted – Sky Sports Italy’s Gianluca Di Marzio has reported on 30 January the Serie A side want €27.5million [£24.2million].

The CBS journalist has told Give Me Sport: “What I’m being told actually on Zaniolo is that Leeds would be looking to do a deal on their terms.

“Perhaps similar to McKennie whereby they could maybe get something of value in the short-term with an option to buy rather than necessarily any obligation.

“And if they go down the permanent route, then it would be more along the lines of cut-price and not necessarily to the same tune or figures that had been quoted so far.”

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He went on: “Just to add as well on the Leeds front, because I’m getting information all the time.

“I think that it’s probably fair to say if Leeds are to pull off Nicolo Zaniolo, then they will be looking for as I understand it anyway, the preferential option based on the fact that they know that the player wants to leave.“

Upper hand

There is no way that Roma are going to get the amount they want for a player who appears to be looking to leave the club at all costs.

Fans have apparently turned on him in a worrying way [Get Italian Football News, 30 January] so the player needs a move before the deadline, because it is going to be, at best, a major task for Jose Mourinho to rehabilitate him in the squad, and the Portuguese hasn’t sounded especially well-disposed to that idea anyway.

It is hard to see where he even fits into Jesse Marsch’s set up so surely the Whites would just walk away if they were expected to pay the lion’ share of what they shelled out to break the club record for Georginio Rutter earlier this month.

Leeds United can probably sit back quite comfortably on this one and wait for the situation to come to them if it gets more pressing on Roma’s end.

A loan with an option, as long as his wages aren’t extortionate, would give Marsch a surprise extra option but given the arrival of Rutter and the fact that other current players are returning to fitness the American can afford to go on without Zaniolo being added.

Thankfully this time the club look to be in position to take or leave late deals as suits them having put together an impressive January window.

In other Leeds United news, paperwork is being finalised on a deadline day exit, with a further major sale still on the cards as well.