As Leeds United were being granted a further four-day extension to their "standstill agreement" with creditors yesterday, Middlesbrough were attempting to make their loan deal with Leeds' England right-back Danny Mills permanent.
Mills, 26, who moved to the Riverside on a year's loan in August, was signed by the Yorkshire club for £3.5m in 2000. He joined Boro after finding himself at odds with the then Leeds manager, Peter Reid, and had indicated that he expected to return to Elland Road at the end of this season.
But the Boro manager, Steve McClaren, has been hugely impressed with the no-nonsense defender. His chairman, Steve Gibson, last night said talks were under way, and although he said they might not come to fruition by the time the transfer window closes on Saturday, he said his club's interest would continue.
"Leeds have got complex difficulties and time is running out," he said. "We would hope to sign him permanently before the end of the week. We want him to stay, the fans have taken to him and I think he wants to stay."
Yesterday afternoon, Leeds' acting chairman and chief executive, Trevor Birch, appeared to have satisfied the club's principal creditors - who are owed a combined £82m - that a four-man, Yorkshire-based consortium are poised to take control in a buy-out understood to be worth £20m.
A statement to the Stock Exchange read: "The board of Leeds United plc announces that the standstill period with the Company's principal finance creditors has today been extended to 5.0pm on 30 January 2004. As previously announced, the standstill agreement also provides for a further extension to 6 February 2004, conditional on achievement of certain financial and other covenants."
The consortium quartet have yet to reveal their hand and want to retain their anonymity at this stage, although it is believed they are prominent members of Leeds' Jewish community. The former Bradford chairman Geoffrey Richmond has ruled himself out, as have the wealthy Ziff family.
Two names to have emerged are Terry Fisher, a Leeds fan who last year failed to take control of Huddersfield when they were in administration, and Stuart Levin, the millionaire fundraiser of the Make A Dream children's charity.
Birch said that "constructive talks are continuing" with the consortium, putting on hold the recent need to raise between £3.5m and £5m to see the club through to the end of the season. In the last few days, the local consortium has emerged as the front-runner and is prepared to step in straightaway.
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