Leeds United are heading back to the Championship in deflating fashion following a 4-1 loss to Tottenham with plenty of changes to the squad expected with relegation confirmed. American midfielder Weston McKennie, who got the start but only played 60 minutes in the season finale, is among the players likely to be moving on from Yorkshire this offseason after the club declined the purchase option on his loan from Juventus, CBS Sports transfer insider Fabrizio Romano confirms.
With a decline in form and several managerial changes, it makes sense to have some uncertainty around the Leeds' roster heading into a critical summer. But after McKennie joined the club in January, all signs point to his next move potentially being a long term one that he can build on. Moving to West Yorkshire may have been risky and proven not to be worth it for the American.
After performing in Europe and showing versatility in his ability to line up in different positions, what teams could be viable suiters for the American?
Brighton in need of midfielder
With Alexis Mac Allister possibly heading to Liverpool and Moises Caicedo also likely playing his final game for the Seagulls, there will be multiple openings in midfield for Brighton as they prepare for European football for the first time in club history. It would be a move that would makes sense for a team like Brighton that is open on the attacking end and allows creative midfielders to show what they can do. McKennie is someone who does best in freerer roles where he can express himself and Roberto De Zerbi allows players to flourish. Add in that Brighton are already a potent team from set plays and McKennie can provide another target in that area with his impressive heading ability.
What about a Juventus return?
While McKennie was expected to be on the outs at Juventus, with a points deduction and possible changes at the coach and director level, there could be a chance that he stays with the club. Juventus will need to sell players during the summer and McKennie will have value, but telegraphing their need to sell as well as his disappointing loan makes him one of the less appreciated players on the roster. The road to restoring a relationship at Juventus could be a long one, especially with possible sanctions also impacting next season. If McKennie isn't able to go to a team that plays European ball this summer, spending a season at Juventus is far from the worst option that he could have.
Deeper lying Magpies
In the Premier League, there could be competition for McKennie's services. Similarly to Brighton, there are other teams that will need to strengthen for European exploits. Eddie Howe worked wonders with a Newcastle United midfield consisting of Joelinton, Bruno Guimaraes, Joe Willock and Sean Longstaff for most of the season. And while they accomplished their goals, depth will be needed next season after clinching a spot in the Champions League. You never want to break up a settled midfield ahead of a critical season, but it's something that could be done with McKennie having European experience. Howe has been excellent at keeping his team settled during the season so if a change is to be made, he's someone who can make sure it's communicated properly.
Aston Villa in transfer merry-go-round
Again, it's another Premier League team but as history has shown, that's where the money is. Douglas Luiz signed a new contract after Arsenal's interest in January, but that doesn't mean that he couldn't move and McKennie's versatility is something that could appeal to Unai Emery as he configures the squad for his first full season in charge. With the ability to play as a shuttling or attacking midfielder, winger, and even a right back in a pinch, McKennie is the jack-of-all-trades type that Emery can covet at teams.