Leeds are closing in on a move for Chelsea starlet Lewis Bate.
The Blues midfielder has been on the radar of the Elland Road outfit for some time and a switch is now edging closer to completion.
But there remain plenty of questions about the transfer – with Chelsea’s approach to the deal and Leeds’ plan for the midfielder both key to the move playing out.
Here is the view from inside the Leeds and Chelsea camps as this intriguing move plays out.
Sam Inkersole, Football London
Why are Chelsea selling Bate given how highly he’s rated?
It is not a case of Chelsea wanting to sell Lewis Bate as such, it is more that the youngster decided to snub fresh terms in west London as he plots a pathway to senior football.
Bate is one of three Blues youngsters who are set to reject new contracts at Chelsea alongside Tino Livramento and Myles Peart-Harris, while Dynel Simeu looks likely to join Brentford in the coming days.
Perhaps he didn’t see a clear route to the first team in west London, something that has befallen quite a few youngsters, and he has decided to move on. We have already seen it with Marc Guehi this summer, who went to Crystal Palace for £18million after Chelsea indicated they wanted to loan him out again.
Bate has yet to play for Chelsea’s senior team but he has been an unused substitute on two occasions and is very highly-rated among the players to emerge last season for the under-23s.
They’ve only opted to sell as their hand was forced by Bate entering the last year of his contract.
Will there be any clauses or protections in the deal given how highly he is rated?
We are led to believe there will be a sell-on clause inserted in the deal by Chelsea but there will be no buy-back.
The Blues often like to protect themselves in some way when they do allow youngsters to move on that they have brought through the esteemed academy setup at Cobham, like they did with the aforementioned Guehi when they inserted a sell-on and also match rights on any future transfer.
As previously mentioned, Bate was very highly-rated at the club and they didn’t want to lose him, much like Guehi, so while they will receive some sort of fee from Leeds this summer to take him to Elland Road, if he progresses like Chelsea believed he could then they could see another chunk of cash come back their way.
Should it be seen as another vindication for the Academy approach that the Blues have?
You can look at it in two ways really and it is very much down to personal opinion as to whether you think the Chelsea academy is successful in how it works.
The “Loan Army” is famous for Chelsea sending a whole host of players on multiple loan deals having been brought to the club or joining through the youth setup. You look at the likes of Baba Rahman, Matt Miazga, Marco Van Ginkel, Kenedy and the infamous Lucas Piazon, who played three games in ten years at the club.
Then again, the cycle of loan spells does sometimes work. Mason Mount is now a Chelsea and England regular after his spell at Vitesse Arnhem and Derby, Fikayo Tomori broke through but he’s now moved on to pastures new at AC Milan. Reece James starred for Wigan before breaking through at Chelsea.
Tammy Abraham has benefitted from a number of stays away from the club on a temporary basis too, while young striker Armando Broja has penned a five-year contract at Chelsea having starred for Vitesse Arnhem last season.
The Blues played Man City in the FA Youth Cup final three times in a row and that has produced full internationals for ten Blues players, some who remain at the club like Callum Hudson-Odoi, Abraham and Mount.
Some will say the system works as Chelsea made £45million on selling Guehi and Tomori this summer at a huge profit for players that joined them as under-8s. Others will argue that more likely than not, players will eventually end up elsewhere having had little chance at the club to progress.
So basically, it’s a long-winded way of me sitting on the fence.
How has the news gone down in the CFC fanbase?
Bate was an exciting prospect and one that Blues fans who take a keen interest in the youth side of things will be disappointed to see. No-one will begrudge the fact that Bate sees himself with a better pathway elsewhere, despite the facilities and opportunities that could come his way at Chelsea.
But there is also a realisation that not every youth player on the books at the club, and there are a lot of them, will make it onto the hallowed turf at Stamford Bridge. Sometimes you just have to move on, just like the production line at Cobham will.
Beren Cross, LeedsLive
What’s the stance from the Leeds end?
Leeds have admired Bate for some time, like many clubs in the Premier League. He is known as being one of the brightest prospects on Chelsea’s books and as his contract has ticked down it’s become clear he’s available.
United are aware there is a lot of interest in him, but the noises from the Chelsea end would suggest the Whites are in pole position.
Why are they looking to sign Bate?
In short, he’s a very talented young footballer with a big future ahead of him and he’s available at a decent price with his contract running down.
Since achieving Category One status with their academy last year, Leeds have been on a recruitment drive to bring in some of the country’s finest young talents with proof of a pathway to first-team football.
As far as you’re aware, would there be any clauses or protection for Chelsea in the deal?
Reports would suggest Chelsea have agreed a sell-on clause with the transfer, but no buy-back fee.
How does Bate fit into the Leeds blueprint?
As mentioned above, there has been a sustained recruitment drive to bring some of the best talent from across England into Thorp Arch across the past 12 to 18 months.
Fulham, Arsenal, Wigan Athletic and Birmingham City have all seen promising young talent head to West Yorkshire. The under-23s train full-time with the first team at Leeds, with Marcelo Bielsa keeping a close eye on all of those waiting in the wings to plug gaps where needed.
Bate is described as someone who could play the Kalvin Phillips role, so time will tell whether he could be someone good enough to fill in.
Will he get games?
Not immediately, but if he proves to be as good as reports from Chelsea suggest it won’t be long before he is making the bench in United’s Premier League squads.
Bielsa sees age as no barrier and if there are enough injuries and suspensions to force his hand, he will have no reservations in bringing Bate in.
Are Leeds fans excited about the deal?
While there is the appetite for expensive first-team acquisitions ready to go from day one, they also appreciate what a coup this would be for the Elland Road outfit as one of the finest young footballers at a first-class academy.
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