Neil Lennon shares Leeds United interest in 'blossomed' Matt O'Riley before new contract
Neil Lennon has revealed that Leeds United were “really heavy” on Celtic star Matt O’Riley before he signed a new contract.
Speaking on TNT Sports (4 October), the ex-Celtic boss claimed, through his source at the club, that Leeds had a strong interest in the 22-year-old who signed a four-year deal with the Hoops on Saturday (30 September).
Lennon praised the Elland Road target, for his ability to excel in top-flight football and his prolific goal tally.
Lennon said: “I think he’s had a great start to the season. He’s really blossomed. This is his third season now and every week, looking at him now, he’s always on the scoresheet.
“He was a target for a number of clubs and I was speaking to somebody at Leeds and they were really heavy on him.
“But now he’s on a long-term contract he’s settling down now. He’s playing at the highest level and we’re seeing the best of him now.”
While Leeds fans would have been thrilled to see the midfielder make the move to Elland Road, Celtic remained firm on his position from the off, suggesting the Whites never had much chance of getting him anyway.
The Scottish Sun reported (6 September) that the Hoops rejected a £10million offer from Leeds for O’Riley, who is highly regarded by Daniel Farke’s side.
However, Lennon’s claim does shed light on how highly rated he is at Elland Road, and he most likely proved a valuable addition to the Championship. As per Leeds Live (30 August), both Southampton and Serie A side Bologna had interest in the Danish under-21 regular, but Brendan Rodgers saw him as “integral” to his squad.
O’Riley has made a blistering start to the domestic season, with five goals in seven appearances, but has suffered back-to-back defeats in the Champions League. While Leeds would have favoured a move for O’Riley, the fact that the club are targeting such high-potential but relatively cheap options would be very encouraging for fans.
This profile of player was brought in over the summer, with the likes of Ethan Ampadu, Ilia Gruev and Joel Piroe all having the potential to reach Premier League quality, but all available on a Championship budget.
£10million would have been steep, especially considering Joel Piroe’s potentially £16million fee, but 49ers Enterprises were clearly thinking long-term.
In other Leeds United news, a BBC pundit has blasted a senior Elland Road man and wants him axed after the Southampton defeat.