Peter Ridsdale, the Leeds United chairman, is confident that Seth Johnson can go on "to bigger and better things" at Elland Road.
Johnson was due to meet Ridsdale yesterday afternoon to finalise a £7m move from Derby County, who have been forced to off-load the midfielder to ease their crippling financial crisis. The 22-year-old will undergo a medical this week and complete the deal – with the fee rising to £9m depending on appearances – in time for him to make his debut at home to Chelsea on Sunday.
Given the deadline for European competitions, Johnson would not be eligible for the first leg of Leeds' Uefa Cup second-round tie against French side Troyes tomorrow. But the lure of continental football and the prospect of potentially forcing his way into England coach Sven Goran Eriksson's World Cup plans will undoubtedly ensure Johnson signs up for an expected five-year contract.
Rio Ferdinand has quickly become one of the first names down on Eriksson's England team sheets, given the form he has shown since his £18m move from West Ham 11 months ago, a fee which remains a world record for a defender.
With a string of Under-21 appearances to his credit and having won one full cap after coming on as a substitute in the friendly against Italy last November, Johnson clearly has a bright future for both club and country ahead of him, even if he does not go to Japan and South Korea.
"We have had a bid accepted by Derby and we are delighted to have been given permission to talk to Seth and his agent," Ridsdale enthused. "Although he is far from a Leeds player, I see no reason why agreeing terms should be a problem given some of the players we have been able to attract to Elland Road over the past few years.
"Again, this shows the commitment the board has to backing [manager] David O'Leary in the transfer market. This is further confirmation we will do all we can to bring the players David asked for to Elland Road.
"Seth is a player we have been tracking for some time, and if we do sign him, he is a player who will undoubtedly add value to the squad. He is young – only 22-years-old – he is English, has played for the Under-21s and has one full cap to his name. Hopefully he can go on to bigger and better things with us, but first he has to agree to join us, so let's see what happens."
If Johnson does decide to join Leeds it will take O'Leary's spending during his three years in charge of the club to £84.6m, relating to appearances by the Birmingham-born player.
That figure is poised to break through the £100m barrier as there is still money left for O'Leary to bring in another two players who have already been earmarked. Hertha Berlin's Sebastian Deisler, Arsenal's Ray Parlour, West Ham's Michael Carrick and Nottingham Forest's Jermaine Jenas are all potential targets. When asked whether O'Leary would complete more signings within the next few weeks, Ridsdale said: "Who knows. We never stop trying to improve the squad."
O'Leary has echoed the desire for improvements, believing his team are far from the finished article, despite setting the early running as Premiership leaders. "I've a group of players who now relish the big game and who can perform on the big stage," he said. "I'm not going to deny they've come on since I took over, and they've done great things, but they've also done daft things and they will continue to do daft things.
"Like against Leicester last week [in the Worthington Cup] when we were 6-0 up, but they were still charging around instead of conserving energy and letting the ball do the work. They just make daft decisions.
"I can't explain it, but preventing it comes with being mature and learning the game. There's a lot of maturing to do and they are not the finished article in any way.
"They're still young compared to someone like David Beckham, but that [being the finished article] will come with playing more, getting older and gaining experience.
"I've still got to get my message across in relation to many things, like on decision-making, on simplicity instead of always trying for the killer ball. They're things that will come with that experience."