Joe Rodon joins Leeds United and Willy Gnonto back in fold as Daniel Farke calls for hardline stance on release clauses

Daniel Farke says Willy Gnonto is back in the fold for Leeds United’s Championship trip to Birmingham City, where new signing Joe Rodon could make his debut.

The Wales centre-back has joined on a season-long loan from Tottenham Hotspur, his arrival and some positive injury news lifting spirits after a difficult day for the Whites on Wednesday.

Teenage Italy forward Gnonto was notable by his absence then, the only fit senor player missing from a League Cup win over Shrewsbury Town where injuries and a transfer window dominated by outgoings meant a number of players played minutes manager Farke would have preferred they had not.

On the full-time whistle there were reports Gnonto, signed on deadline day 12 months ago, refused to play to try to push through a transfer. Farke would only say he was “not available”.

NEW ARRIVAL: Wales centre-back Joe Rodon at Elland Road
NEW ARRIVAL: Wales centre-back Joe Rodon at Elland Road

It came quickly after it emerged Norwich City right-back Max Aarons had changed his mind on a move to Elland Road and entered talks with Bournemouth instead.

Leeds are to an extent in control of their own destiny with Gnonto because unlike so many players who have left – or in the case of Chelsea target Tyler Adams still could – he is not thought to have a release clause in his contract. That so many such clauses allowed players to go on loan rather than for a transfer fee has made recruitment even harder.

Farke said the club should refuse to sign players rather than agreeing to them in future.

Release clause or not, keeping players against their will can be problematic, so it remains to be seen if Gnonto features on Saturday.

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BACK IN TRAINING: Leeds United forward Willy Gnonto
BACK IN TRAINING: Leeds United forward Willy Gnonto

“Willy was in training today (Thursday), trained really well and let’s see what happens for the weekend,” said Farke.

“All my players under contract are part of my plans and we respect all contracts. The first step is you have to train really well, and once you train really well you have the chance to get a spot in the group who travels to the games. Then you have the chance to play.”

Robin Koch, Diego Llorente, Max Wober, Brenden Aaronson, Marc Roca and Rasmus Kristensen all left on loan this summer, with Adam Forshaw and Joel Robles released. Only Rodrigo and the cut-price Tyler Roberts, who joined Birmingham, have been sold. Adams is expected to follow shortly.

It means that as yet the only additions have been Rodon, Ethan Ampadu, Karl Darlow and free agent Sam Byram, who is being nursed through after an injury-hit 2022-23.

LESSONS: Daniel Farke wants Leeds United to learn from this summer's exodus
LESSONS: Daniel Farke wants Leeds United to learn from this summer’s exodus

Rodon has made eight Premier League starts since joining Spurs from Swansea City three years ago, but has 37 international caps having been an ever-present at the last World Cup. He spent last season on loan at Rennes.

That Leeds left themselves vulnerable with so many release clauses is something they must learn from, and Farke wants a hardline stance.

“I think it’s just important we learn the lessons out of this window in how we create the contracts for the future,” he commented. “At least in my opinion, as a club you always have to be in the driving seat. You have to be in control of everything, and we spoke quite honestly and also quite self-critical and openly due to all the exit clauses.

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“It is not that easy at the moment because then you’re not in control.

“We just have to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“I know why there are all these exit clauses – quite often you argue it’s quite normal, 90 per cent of players have this otherwise you can’t get this player. My attitude to it is then we play without these players.

“We don’t sign them if they want an exit clause. If all the other clubs do this and 90 per cent of the players do this, let them. We’re not like all the other clubs, we are Leeds United, we are special and we are unique.

“The lesson we have to learn as a club is I just want players who are fully committed to play for Leeds for the length of their contract, and not to think about some exit clauses when other clubs are interested.

“I’d rather go without a quality player if he’s not fully committed, that’s the topic for me. This is more or less the lesson we have to learn for the future.

“But you can’t blame the players. We have given the contracts, so it’s not to blame the players. It’s up to us to be professional, to respect the situation but I think it’s quite important to learn our lessons.”

Aarons is said to have indirectly apologised to Farke, who was his manager at Norwich, for his late change of heart.

BBC Norfolk journalist Chris Reeve said he was speaking with the defender’s permission when he tweeted: “I know how much of a hard decision it was (for Aarons) to let down Daniel Farke, who is a father figure to him.”

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Meanwhile, Sam Greenwood and Georginio Rutter were back in training on Thursday. Farke said Greenwood’s return comes to soon to feature against the Blues but having been out for a much shorter period, Rutter could be involved.