Steve Evans admitted that a summer purge of the wage bill was needed at Elland Road as Leeds United’s transfer strategy came in for renewed criticism in the wake of a 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest.
Evans moved again to defend Leeds and owner Massimo Cellino, claiming the club were working to a “top six budget” in the Championship, but said a clear-out would be necessary at the end of this season to allow for major investment in players when FIFA’s next transfer window opens.
Leeds made three signings in January, extending Liam Bridcutt’s loan from Sunderland and bringing in Mustapha Carayol from Middlesbrough and Toumani Diagouraga from Brentford, but Sam Byram was sold to West Ham United in a £3.7m deal and Evans failed to add a striker to a squad which is badly short of goals.
His players dominated Saturday’s clash with Forest, controlling more than 60 per cent of possession at Elland Road, but a second-half goal from Nelson Oliveira condemned United to their 10th loss of the Championship term.
Evans, who targeted ex-Middlesbrough striker Kike and Barnsley top scorer Sam Winnall among other forwards in January, described the budget at Elland Road as “healthy” – but conceded that finance had been the main reason behind his failure to push any of those proposed deals over the line.
Leeds have slipped 14 points back from the play-offs amid a run of one win from eight games and asked if Cellino – the Italian who bought Leeds in April 2014 and who is already onto his sixth head coach – would accept that form due to the limited business completed last month, Evans said: “You’d need to ask the president if he’s understanding or not.
“All I know is that we tried to get certain players.
“People think we woke up on deadline day and wanted to sign a player but these were things we’d been working on for two or three weeks. Up until the last couple of days it looked like we’d do one or two (deals). It just never happened.
“Primarily it never happened because of financial (reasons). I don’t make those decisions but when the decision’s made that it’s too much money for the football club, I have to respect that.
“I’m not a manager who took Rotherham to spending too much money and I won’t do that here.
“I walked away from one of the deals because it was a certain amount of money and it would have been out of sync’ to do it.
“Every team, every chairman, they have a budget. There’s a lot of money been spent here on wages. So the first thing you have to do is look in before you look out.
“If you’re spending money on players who aren’t going to be able to take you where you want to go, therein lies the problem.
“The problem is not paying the money to get players in. The problem is adding that on top of money you’re already paying for players who aren’t delivering.
“For us to do certain things, certain players will need to leave. This budget is very healthy. Back in July it was a top-six budget and it still is today. The reason you’re not in the top six is because of players, isn’t it? It’s not because you’ve not paid the money.”
Evans said he and Cellino were wary of putting Leeds “back in the dark days where it was before” and insisted he would only look to sign players in the Football League’s emergency loan market if they were committed to joining the club long-term.
United have been heavily linked with Kyle Lafferty for many months and Evans could look to sign him on a 93-day loan from Norwich City with the emergency window now open.
Evans said: “We’re building and if there are players there we can go and get and make them part of a process to take them at the end of the season, or if a deal’s agreed in advance, then I’m sure we can go and do it.
“But we don’t want to be bringing someone in for a month or two where there’s no prospect of keeping him. That’s not building. That’s just putting a plaster over a cut.”