Leeds United have been beaten to the signing of Kyle Lafferty by Championship rivals Birmingham City. The Norwich City striker had been the subject of speculation linking him with a move to west Yorkshire for several months, but will now spend the rest of the 2015-16 campaign at St Andrew's on an emergency loan deal.
"Striker Kyle Lafferty has joined Blues on an emergency loan until 31 May, 2016. Norwich City have a 28-day recall option," The Blues confirmed in an official statement. "The Northern Ireland international is currently away with his national squad ahead of tonight's friendly against Wales in Cardiff. The 6ft 4in striker has collected 45 caps for his country, scoring 16 goals in the process."
Lafferty joined Norwich from Serie A outfit Palermo back in June 2014, but has consistently struggled for first-team football under Alex Neil and spent the final three months of last season in Turkey with Caykur Rizespor. He returned to Carrow Road following the Canaries' promotion to the Premier League, but made just three substitute appearances in all competitions and has recently found himself stuck behind the likes of Dieumerci Mbokani, Cameron Jerome, Steven Naismith and Patrick Bamford.
Leeds manager Steve Evans made little secret of his desire to sign the former Burnley, Rangers and FC Sion forward during the January transfer window, but ultimately the move never came to fruition. Reports from The Mail last week suggested that they were still hopeful of completing a deal in advance of the Football League loan deadline on 24 March, with Lafferty understandably eager to play regularly in the build-up to the European Championship finals in France this summer.
Despite his patchy club career, the 27-year-old remains a pivotal figure for Northern Ireland and finished behind only Robert Lewandowski, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thomas Muller, Edin Dzeko and Artyom Dzyuba in the scoring charts during qualifying. His impressive haul of seven goals put him level with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale and he will be looking to maintain that record when Michael O'Neill's side, currently ranked 28th in the world by Fifa, open their Group C account against Poland at the Allianz Riviera in Nice on Sunday 12 June.
Birmingham, meanwhile, currently sit ninth in the Championship and a run of three fixtures without a win has seen them slip six points adrift of a play-off berth. They visit troubled relegation candidates Charlton Athletic after the international break and Lafferty will likely be competing with Clayton Donaldson for a starting role at The Valley.