Where the buck stops for the Leeds United season that sailed too close to the wind
The Whites looked destined for a championship return before kick-off, but strikes from Raphinha and Jack Harrison defied any chance of saving Leeds from the fall.
Newcastle United’s Callum Wilson also scored with two own goals to send Burnley to the second tier, but Leeds’ result took center stage among those who found themselves in the end as cheering scenes played out at the Brentford Community Stadium.
By averting relegation, Leeds has avoided the cheap fire sales of key men such as Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha.
It is entirely possible that the star duo will leave Elland Road this summer, but at least with Premier League football and significant bargaining power at board level, Leeds’ hand in the negotiations has been strengthened.
Last week there were reports that Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was keen to replace outgoing veteran Fernandinho with Phillips.
The England international is said to top Guardiola’s transfer wish list this summer, despite Leeds and the player’s preference to remain in West Yorkshire.
United remain confident they can convince Phillips to sign a new contract with much improved terms now that Premier League football is guaranteed an additional 12 months.
Doubts would have arisen about Phillips’ international future had Leeds fallen into the Championship and he chose to stay, but a sale seemed more than likely if the whites had succumbed to the decline.
It’s no secret that the Premier League champions could make an astronomical offer, but Phillips’ ties to Elland Road are seen as a genuine bargaining chip.
The mood among supporters is that most would not begrudge the Wortley resident a transfer to an elite club like City, if the financial situation on both sides of the deal was right and facilitated a squad-wide rebuilding.
Interest from the likes of Manchester United, Aston Villa and West Ham United will also wane with Leeds’ chances of survival.
A move to a club unlikely to compete for titles is not expected to be enough of a draw for Phillips to leave, avoiding a painful departure to positional or historic rivals.