By Alex Stevens
Leeds have set an £8million valuation on prize asset Lewis Cook amid growing interest from Premier League clubs.
Owner Massimo Cellino has insisted that Cook is not for sale but the England Under-19 intenational has only 18 months remaining on his contract.
A Leeds source has told Football Insider that the controversial owner privately accepts that he might have to cash in on the teenage midfielder has set an asking price of £8million.
Bournemouth are leading the chase for Cook and are ready to pay £5million for him this month, while there is also interest from Manchester United, Liverpool and Stoke.
Leeds are vulnerable because the new contract Cook signed last summer only runs until 2017 and the Championship club are aware they could face a battle to hang on to their prize asset.
Speaking on Sky Sports News on Wednesday, Leeds manager Steve Evans sounded as if he was resigned to losing Cook.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Eddie Howe is interested,” Evans said about Cook. “He’s got absolutely everything.
“We want to keep him but when it gets to the realms of that money we’re talking there is only one man who will decide and that’s the president.”
Cellino’s public stance is that there is no deal in place to offload Cook. “Not true,” he told the Yorkshire Evening Post. “I’m not selling Cook. He is happy in Leeds and I’m proud of him.”
The Premier League giants have extensively scouted the 18-year-old midfielder since he broke into the team in 2014 and regard him as the outstanding English midfielder in his age group.
Cook, a graduate of the Leeds academy, made 38 appearances in the competition last season, 33 of which were starts, and has started 21 of the team’s 25 second-tier games in the current campaign.
Another academy graduate Sam Byram is widely expected to leave Elland Road in the January transfer window after rejecting an offer to extend his contract, which ends in the summer.