Leeds United have moved to quash suggestions midfielder Lewis Cook will be allowed to leave the club for £5m should they fail to win promotion this season. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that the 19-year-old would be free to leave at the end of the current campaign as he approaches the final 12 months of his contract at Elland Road.
The Whites clung on to the York-born player in the January transfer window after manager Steve Evans and owner Massimo Cellino both insisted he was not for sale. Cook is out of contract in 2017 and is yet to agree to an extension to his deal.
Amid suggestions that discussions are yet to take place, local media understands that Leeds had paved the way for Cook to leave his boyhood club after a £5m release clause was inserted in his contract, which would be activated should the club fail to win promotion to the Premier League. The Elland Road outfit, who are 18th in the Championship table and 17 points adrift of the play-offs, have reacted angrily to the reports however and said the story had "damaging intentions".
A statement on the official club website read: "Leeds United would like to categorically deny reports that have emerged in the local press this morning regarding a supposed release clause in the contract of Lewis Cook. The claim by the Yorkshire Evening Post, which the club feels was published with damaging intentions, is entirely inaccurate and unfair reporting. No release clause whatsoever exists in the contract of the player in question."
Evans had indicated that talks over new deals for the likes of Cook, Charlie Taylor and Alex Mowatt had begun in earnest, however that claim has been shot down by a representative of the latter. The trio all have less than 18 months remaining on their contracts but their long-term future is now shrouded in mystery. Agent Michael Rankine, when asked whether he had been approach by Leeds, said: "Absolutely none whatsoever. Nobody has spoken to me about it, or to Alex."