This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict‘ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Championship side Huddersfield Town rejected an offer worth up to £13m from Leeds United for 22-year-old Lewis O’Brien during the summer window, according to owner Phil Hodgkinson who spoke to Yorkshire Live.
O’Brien, who had been appointed as one of the Terriers’ vice-captain’s in pre-season, was the subject of four separate bids from Marcelo Bielsa’s side in their attempt to steal a march on fellow top-flight outfit Crystal Palace who had also entered the race.
The central midfielder has been a key figure for Carlos Corberan’s side since the beginning of the 2019/20 campaign, returning from a successful loan spell at Bradford City and making 83 Championship appearances since then.
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Although he was unable to elevate Huddersfield from the lower midtable positions they found themselves in during the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons, his quality in the middle of the park has shone through and with a move away not happening until January at the very earliest, he will be hoping to help the second-tier side build on their promising start to this campaign.
He previously looked likely to leave the John Smith’s Stadium in the previous window but with Leeds United’s fourth and final offer not guaranteeing a substantial fee up front for the Terriers, with a proportion of the £13m potentially coming in as non-guaranteed add-ons, owner Phil Hodgkinson decided to reject the Premier League side’s advances once again.
After this latest reveal by Hodgkinson, we asked three of our writers whether the owner should have rejected this deal or not.
I think despite Huddersfield’s finances not being as strong as they once were, they were absolutely correct to turn down Leeds’ offer.
This would have been a completely different story if all of that £13 million was guaranteed money in instalments for the Terriers, and if it was I think that they would have snapped Leeds’ hands off.
Don’t get me wrong, O’Brien is a talented player but that is game-changing money at this level and it’s clear to see from their transfer business this summer, Huddersfield don’t have a big pot of money to play with.
The fact that the offer was heavily add-ons influenced though means that it was a pretty easy decision for Phil Hodgkinson in the end.
There’s no guarantee that O’Brien would have made it as a first-teamer under Marcelo Bielsa and if he wasn’t up to the required standard then he could easily be shipped out and Huddersfield never get another penny of the potential add-ons in the deal.
If a club come in in January with around £8 million-£10 million in guaranteed money for O’Brien then I can see a sale occurring but Huddersfield’s chances of doing well this season have suddenly shot up, not only due to their positive start to the season but also because they’ve managed to keep hold of their prized asset for a while longer.
It’s a tough one as we don’t know the exact terms of the deal.
If Huddersfield were guaranteed to get £13m because the clauses were realistic then it’s a very brave move indeed! With O’Brien’s contract expiring next summer, there’s a chance he could leave then, and if that happens they will regret turning down this offer.
Of course, there is a hope at Huddersfield that a new deal will be agreed, which would protect the value of the player moving forward. You would have said around £10m would’ve been a fair price for O’Brien given his importance to the team but if Hodgkinson didn’t feel the structure was right, you have to trust him on that.
From a football perspective, Carlos Corberan has managed to keep his key man, which will delight him, but this is something that could come up again in January.
It was a very difficult decision for Huddersfield to make this summer over Lewis O’Brien’s long-term future because he is such a vital part of Carlos Corberan’s plans and he would have been very difficult to replace.
O’Brien is heading into the final year of his current deal, but crucially the Terriers do have that option for a further 12 months that they will surely take up.
That means that they will still have the chance to cash in on O’Brien next summer potentially if he is not going to commit to a longer-term contract at Huddersfield.
Leeds obviously wanted to sign O’Brien and that in itself shows the type of asset that the midfielder is for Huddersfield. However, they were not prepared to pay the £13 million they offered upfront to the Terriers and wanted to structure the deal in a way they wanted.
Therefore you have to praise Huddersfield’s resolve to stand firm and show that they are not going to be strong-armed into selling their best players unless the offer and structure of the offer meets their requirements.