Leeds put £12m in the hassle bank

Leeds United have agreed to sell Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to Atletico Madrid for Stg£12 million.

Leeds United have agreed to sell Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to Atletico Madrid for Stg£12 million.

The move came on the day that Nicolas Anelka finally put his signature to a Stg£23 million transfer from Arsenal to Atletico's rivals, Real Madrid, completing his tortuous exposure of the ramifications of post-Bosman player power.

Hasselbaink, who has yet to agree terms and pass a medical, was the subject of a £10 million bid from Atletico last week. The timing of the offer coincided with Leeds' attempt to conclude discussions on a new and much-improved contract; they were ready to double his wages to £25,000 a week, making the Dutchman the highest-paid player in their history.

But it was apparent from the moment the Atletico offer arrived that the 27-year-old striker saw his future in Spain. Atletico are believed to be willing to pay Hasselbaink £40,000 a week.

At least Leeds have made an extra £2 million in the course of a week. It was clear the club had accepted they were losing Hasselbaink once they made a £10 million bid for Leicester City's Emile Heskey on Tuesday.

As late as last weekend, the Leeds hierarchy had thought Hasselbaink could be persuaded to stay and played him in a friendly at Birmingham City last Saturday. But the angry reaction of the fans, who displayed a banner proclaiming "Hasselbaink: Judas, greedy, selfish", combined with the player's unflinching desire to leave, altered the club's thinking.

By Monday morning the Leeds manager, David O'Leary, was quoted as saying: "I'm not surprised that people are calling him a greedy son of a bitch. He keeps on peeling off from the rest of the players in training and asking me why I won't pay him what he wants or sell him. I'm sick to death of it."

Knowing his manager's thoughts, O'Leary's chairman, Peter Ridsdale, contacted Atletico on Tuesday and then met Miguel, son of the club's owner Jesus Gil, in London yesterday morning.

"I wanted to see the whites of Atletico's eyes and find out what they had to offer," Ridsdale said last night. "I was getting tired of seeing this transfer saga overshadow all the progress we've made under David O'Leary.

"He has built one of the most exciting squads in the country, yet all people are talking about is Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. We're better off without a player who does not want to play for the club."

As with Arsenal, who made a profit of £22.5 million on Anelka, Leeds have made a sizeable yield on Hasselbaink, who the previous manager George Graham signed from the Oporto club Boavista two summers ago for £2 million. Ridsdale said that the £12 million from Atletico "plus a bit extra" will be made available to O'Leary.

The Dubliner has a "Brits first, Scandinavians second" buying policy, but in the wake of the failure to purchase Heskey, Ridsdale said: "We're not close to bringing someone in at the minute."

Alan Smith and Michael Bridges, Leeds' £5 million signing from Sunderland last month, are likely to lead the attack for Derby County's visit on Saturday.

Of Hasselbaink, Anelka and Pierre van Hooijdonk, who had all fallen out with their clubs over transfers, Ridsdale said: "The one thing about those three players is that they are not British. They appear to do what they can to fill their own wallets."

Last night, Hasselbaink's agent, Humphrey Nijman, said: "It was never about money, as many people believe. It was a number of issues. Jimmy needs emotional satisfaction."

Assuming Hasselbaink and Anelka pass their respective medicals, both will be revealed wearing their new colours some time today or tomorrow.

English football is £35 million richer as a result, but for the second time this week the Premiership has lost out to the Primera Liga and the delights of Madrid. The guide books like to say it is a city of great fascination and paradox. Hasselbaink and Anelka should fit in nicely.

Michael Walker

Michael Walker

Michael Walker is a contributor to The Irish Times, specialising in soccer

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