This was always likely to be Jason Knight's last season at Derby County.
The Irishman has been steadily outgrowing the Championship club and certainly has far too much quality to be fighting relegation to League One, a situation he currently finds himself in after Derby's point deduction at the start of the season.
Wayne Rooney's side are putting up a remarkable fight to stay in the division, but their financial struggles mean they are likely to lose some key players this month.
While Knight was expected to stay there until the end of the campaign, it now looks as though he is nearing closer to the exit door. The Times are reporting that Leeds United, Newcastle United, and Burnley are all interested in signing him in the January window, with a fee of around £8million mooted.
That would be quite the deal for a player who is still 20-years old and has already made 100 appearances at first team level. Were it not for Derby's money issues, they would likely be seeking around twice that amount in order to let him go.
Looking at the clubs who are interested in Knight, there appears to be one standout option.
Jason Knight to Leeds United?
Leeds United would be a perfect fit for the Dubliner at this stage of his career. Marcelo Bielsa requires an abundance of energy from his midfielders, constantly hassling and harrying the opposition and also possessing the ability to break at speed towards the other end of the pitch.
Those are qualities that Knight has made his name in the game with. Anyone who has seen him play for Derby or Ireland will tell you that his work rate is what immediately stands out, with his ability on the ball having also greatly improved over the last 12 months or so.
A clearer look at Jason Knight's goal 🇮🇪pic.twitter.com/tBprQjttOM
— Rep of Ireland Player Tracker (@RepTracker) October 20, 2021
It would be hugely exciting to see how Bielsa could bring his game on even further. You need only look at what he has done with some other members of that Leeds squad as an example of what could be to come.
Newcastle and Burnley are less appealing options as things stand. There could be opportunities in the team for him under Eddie Howe, but that club is a bit of a mess at the moment and looks highly likely to be playing Championship football next season.
The style of play at Burnley would be less than ideal for Knight and Sean Dyche can often be reluctant to break up his established partnerships in the team, meaning there would be no guarantee of consistent playing time over the remainder of the season. We have also seen how other Irish midfielders such as Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick have seen their careers stagnate after joining the club.
Leeds would be a great fit in more ways than one. Not only is their playing style perfectly suited to his game, but they also look highly likely to be in the Premier League next season after so far avoiding getting dragged into a relegation scrap despite their injury issues. They are also crying out for more options in midfield, meaning the Cabinteely native should see plenty of minutes right away should he move to Elland Road.
Their players consistently top the Premier League charts when it comes to sprints made per 90 minutes, as well as distance covered, metrics the Derby man would immediately stand out in.
Such a move would only benefit his Ireland career. Knight seems on the verge of nailing down a spot in the starting XI under Stephen Kenny, something that is all but certain to happen if he is playing in the Premier League every week.
The Ireland boss is certainly a big fan of the midfielder, going into detail after the recent win in Luxembourg as to how quickly Jason Knight can adapt to what is asked of him:
He was coming on to do two shifts. One, in possession he had to play on the left side of our attack.
Two, out of possession defensively, he had to mark Christopher Martins Pereira — their holding midfielder.
We pressed with our front two and had him as our No 10 when we were out of possession. But in possession, he operated on the left flank. He had a very tactical role. He takes on information very quickly.
One of the advantages of being Under-21 manager is you learn about the character of players.
Jason has terrific character. He’s a terrific little player, he has buckets of courage and he’s a breath of fresh air around the place.
That certainly sounds like a player Marcelo Bielsa would love to have in his squad.
If they can get him for £8million, Leeds could well secure one of the biggest bargains in recent memory.