Leeds pour cold water on talk of player sales

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The Independent Football

The Leeds United chief executive, Trevor Birch, has again insisted that no player will be leaving Elland Road during January's transfer window.

With Leeds £78m in debt and up for sale as they strive to avoid administration, speculation surrounds players such as Mark Viduka, Alan Smith and James Milner. All have been linked with possible moves to Manchester United, while Viduka is again attracting the apparent interest of Internazionale. The Italians tried to land the Australia international on loan for the season in the summer, offering £2m for the deal, but Leeds declined.

Although Viduka has scored only three goals to date, his strike in the 3-2 win over Fulham on Sunday ending a nine-match drought, he is showing signs he is back to his best following the installation of Eddie Gray as caretaker manager. Despite the player's £65,000 a week wages, Leeds are determined to hang on to him.

"We are not commenting on speculation, but we are not looking to sell any players in January," Birch confirmed. Last week, he said it would take a huge bid for Leeds to consider selling the 28-year-old.

"If you get an absolute knock-out offer and somebody comes in and offers £50m for Mark Viduka then you are going to think about it," he said. "But the stated objective is to retain our status as a Premier League club and you don't achieve that by selling your players - again.

"We are not a selling club. We won't be a selling club in January because that's not consistent with our overall objective. So selling Mark Viduka for, say £5m, and losing £25m if you get relegated, those figures don't really stack up."

The Blackburn manager, Graeme Souness, is reconciled to the view that Corrado Grabbi is one of the biggest Premiership flops of all time, costing Rovers £5m a goal. The Italian striker can leave for nothing following a couple of dismal seasons after Rovers spent £7m to sign him and a further £3m in wages. He is likely to move to Ancona, who will take on his contract.

Grabbi has scored twice in the Premiership for Blackburn, and Souness hopes he will go for good. He said: "There will be no fee, but that is the way the game has gone in the last 18 months or so. It's now a case of getting someone off the payroll and another one in. I am the one who signed him and we paid good money for him. You feel angry and disappointed but that is football. The lad has ability, but I think the game is too intense for him here."

Souness is also about to pull out of the chase for the United States striker Brian McBride as the loan fee is too high.