Ben White: Where Will the Defender Play His Football in 2020/21?

Leeds are determined to have Ben White back at Elland Road
Leeds are determined to have Ben White back at Elland Road | Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Ben White is a wanted man. The future of the Brighton & Hove Albion defender has been one of the most dominant stories of the transfer window so far and it shows no sign of leaving the limelight to anyone else.

According to reports, Leeds United have already had three bids turned down for their 2019/20 Player of the Season by Brighton, including a latest of offer of £30m, and White himself has rejected two new contract offers. Leeds fans have set up petitions and a dedicated #FreeBenWhite hashtag trended at number one in the United Kingdom in a bid to convince the Seagulls to sell.

It isn't just Leeds who want to make White a permanent member of their squad, though. Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool are known to be long-term admirers of White while Chelsea are also monitoring developments as Frank Lampard looks to boost his defence after a season in which the Blues leaked goals at an alarming rate.

White is not short of suitors and he is certain to be playing Premier League football next season. The question is where exactly will that be? Here are five of the leading candidates.

5. Leeds United

Ben White was voted Leeds Player of the Season in 2019-20
Ben White was voted Leeds Player of the Season in 2019-20 | Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Leeds fans are finding out the hard way that doing business with Brighton is not the formality that many thought it would be. The Elland Road club have had bids of £18.5m, £22m and now £30m turned down by Seagulls chairman Tony Bloom, who is under no pressure to sell one of the most highly rated young players in the country - especially to a club who could be a rival in the Premier League relegation battle.

Bloom made millions of pounds both as a professional gambler and a poker player, with his ice cool demeanour at the poker table earning him the nickname 'The Lizard'. He will not have been fazed by White's contract rejections or any incoming transfer request from the defender.

Lewis Dunk, Dale Stephens and Elliott Bennett have handed in transfer requests to Bloom previously and all three have been rejected. Not since the departure of Leonardo Ulloa for £8m to Leicester City in the summer of 2014 have Brighton sold a player they wished to keep.

Bloom will only sell to Leeds if they put up an offer which is too good to refuse. The question that Leeds and Marcelo Bielsa now face is how much do they value White at? For a newly promoted club to spend over £30m of their transfer budget on a player who has never played a minute of top flight football in his life would be a major gamble.

As a result, it looks like Leeds have been priced out of a move for White.

4. Chelsea

Frank Lampard
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard maintains an interest in Ben White | Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

Chelsea have not been holding back in the transfer window, completing deals for Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner. They are also tracking Kai Havertz.

Acquiring millions upon millions of pounds of attacking talent seems a curious strategy for a side who conceded 79 goals in 2019/20, their worst defensive record for 30 years. Unless the Blues are planning on conceding three but scoring five in every game next season, Lampard needs to improve his defensive options.

A new goalkeeper to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga seems an obvious place to start, given that the Spaniard conceded 45% of the shots he faced. Chelsea are not blessed with centre backs either, which is where White could come in.

Because of Chelsea's transfer ban, Lampard found himself building an exciting team of young, English talents last season. At 22, White fits perfectly into that profile and could find himself improving at Stamford Bridge at a similar rate as Mason Mount, Reece James, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori - who are all now full England internationals.

It is also his youth and inexperience which could however count against White when it comes to a big money move to Chelsea. Lampard needs proven and ready defenders with Premier League experience if the Blues are to challenge next season, which is why he might find himself more drawn to White's Brighton teammate Lewis Dunk, who Chelsea were linked with in January.

3. Arsenal

Mikel Arteta
White could be a good fit for Mikel Arteta's FA Cup winners Arsenal | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Arsenal's defence has been a source of constant frustration for Gunners fans for a number of years now while providing the rest of the football world with much entertainment at the same time.

One week, they can be brilliant defensively - such as when beating Manchester City and Chelsea on their way to lifting the 2020 FA Cup. The next, they can be all over the place - see David Luiz in the 3-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium in June.

White has been linked previously with City because of his ability to play out from the back. Pep Guardiola's capture of Nathan Ake from Bournemouth has probably put paid to any move to the Etihad, but Arsenal would provide a similar fit for a defender who is as comfortable in possession as any other young centre back in the country.

Arsenal may even find that they can sweeten the deal for Brighton and land White for less than the current asking price. The Seagulls have been linked with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who Arsenal have admitted they are open to offers for; if the Gunners offer cash plus Maitland-Niles for White, it could represent a good deal for all parties.

2. Liverpool

Virgil van Dijk could play a big role in the development of White should he move from Brighton to Liverpool
Virgil van Dijk could play a big role in the development of White should he move from Brighton to Liverpool | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool have sent scouts to watch White on several occasions and Jurgen Klopp is said to have been very impressed by the defender's form at Leeds. The Reds are in the market for a centre back following Dejan Lovren's departure to Zenit Saint Petersburg and White would no doubt jump at the chance to move to the Premier League champions and the challenge of earning a starting spot alongside Virgil van Dijk.

In many ways, Liverpool seems like the perfect fit for White. Brighton would probably find it easier to sell to Anfield, too - after all, they would not be strengthening a side who they are likely to be in direct competition with in the Premier League standings, as is the case with Leeds.

What may prohibit a move to Liverpool is Brighton's asking price. The Reds have already shown that they are not willing to overpay this summer after balking at Norwich City's £20m valuation of Jamal Lewis.

Lewis is the same age as White and has a season of Premier League experience under his belt. If Liverpool refused to sanction £20m for Lewis, are they likely to pay over £30m for White? Probably not.

1. Brighton & Hove Albion

Ben White has been at Brighton for six years but is still waiting for his league debut
Ben White has been at Brighton for six years but is still waiting for his league debut | Pete Norton/Getty Images

In rejecting £30m for White, Brighton have made it very clear that they will not be selling unless somebody is willing to pay an eye watering amount. The Seagulls have the power to do that as they hold all the cards - just as Bloom would like.

Before he moved on loan to Leeds last summer, White signed a new contract keeping him at the Amex until the summer of 2022. Brighton have the option of another year, so he effectively has three seasons left on his deal.

Whatever happens with White, Brighton are going to do very well. If Leeds, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool or somebody else pay Bloom's asking price, then the Seagulls make a £30m+ profit on a player who has not played a single minute of league football for them. Graham Potter would still have Dunk, Adam Webster, Dan Burn, Joel Veltman, Shane Duffy and Matt Clarke as centre back options.

If nobody meets Brighton's valuations, then the Seagulls get to keep one of the best young prospects in England. That seems to be the current plan, with Brighton's pathway development manager David Weir telling the official club website: "Ben played every minute [on loan at Leeds], which is really impressive. He has come through and played at different levels and matched the level expected of him.

"He has stood out in the Championship – he has continued to improve at a gradual rate. Now he has to come back to us and prove that he is a Premier League player."