By George Overhill

14th Mar, 2023 | 6:10pm

Willy Gnonto would be “very happy” to return to Italy as Juventus plan an audacious summer move for the Leeds United star, according to Calcio Mercato Web.

The teenager only arrived on deadline day of the summer transfer window as an under-21s addition but has quickly established himself as a key part of the first-team squad at Elland Road.

His form has already sparked talk of a big-money exit in the near future, with Gary Neville mooting a departure to Manchester City during the 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa on 21 January.

But with on-loan American midfielder Weston McKennie in line to make a £30.8million permanent move from the Old Lady if the Whites stay in the Premier League, the Serie A side is now eyeing up the possibility of discounting the price if Gnonto is included in the deal.

And according to Calcio Mercato Web (13 March) the former Inter youth player would be well-disposed to the idea of returning to Italy to help further his international career, and as such the summer window “seems ready to ignite”.

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Whether by luck or design Gnonto has the potential to be Victor Orta’s biggest success in the transfer market since Raphinha.

At just 19 the summer signing from FC Zurich has made a mockery of the view that he wasn’t ready for the Premier League on arrival, as opponents are increasingly doubling up to try to take him out of games.

Javi Gracia has surprisingly sidelined him since belatedly taking over from Jesse Marsch, substituting him after an hour in the 1-0 win over Southampton on 25 February and then only bringing him off the bench in the two games since.

After making telling contributions as a substitute in back-to-back wins against Liverpool on his debut (29 October) and Bournemouth a week later, which may have saved Marsch’s job at the time, Gnonto cracked the starting line-up and never looked back before Gracia’s arrival.

He told BBC Sport’s Football Focus (11 March) how he feels “at home” in the Premier League and that it is his “dream” to play in this league, so unless dropping out of the starting line-up has derailed everything he surely isn’t itching to move.

There is obviously going to be some draw for an Italian to play for Juventus, but in light of their turmoil – the reason why McKennie is at Elland Road in the first place – now seems like the least attractive point in some time to head to the Allianz Stadium, and if Gnonto was getting picked for Italy while playing in Switzerland he clearly doesn’t need to be in Serie A for national team selection.

The entire situation is moot unless the Whites stay in the top flight, but on balance you would be hard pressed to find many Leeds United fans who would prefer the club to keep McKennie over Gnonto at this stage, so this is surely wishful thinking from Turin.

In other Leeds United news, one Whites star was “absolutely livid” with a teammate for what he did against Brighton.

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