Freddie Ladapo and the Rotherham United transfer request: the full story

Freddie Ladapo and the Rotherham United transfer request: the full story

By Paul Davis | 08/01/2022

Freddie Ladapo and the Rotherham United transfer request: the full story
Freddie Ladapo in action at Crewe before news of his transfer request broke. Picture by Jim Brailsforf

 

IT wasn't a phone call Paul Warne expected or needed at nine o'clock on a Sunday morning.

Agent Jake Speight, of Fifteen Eleven Management, was ringing to inform the Rotherham United boss that his client, Freddie Ladapo, was about to submit a transfer request.

The Millers had returned to the summit of League One the day before, on January 1, with a 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers. The striker, a regular starter and scorer over recent weeks, had been in the team.

To the manager, it made no sense, but the request duly arrived. The record signing, the former Plymouth Argyle man who stood on the touchline at AESSEAL New York Stadium on the day of his arrival and whispered into a club camera 'Let's go', wanted out.

"I'm a bit surprised," Warne said. "There hasn't been a fall-out or anything dramatic like that. He just feels that he wants his career to take a path somewhere else and I have to respect that."

Club and player now have until the end of January to broker a parting of the ways.

Ladapo, bought from Argyle for £400,000 plus add-ons, is out of contract in the summer but the Millers have an option to extend his stay by a further 12 months, which increases their bargaining power in this month's transfer window when it comes to negotiating a fee.

They're prepared to sanction his departure - "We want volunteers not hostages," said Warne, pinching a quote from Pittsburgh Steelers NFL coach Mike Tomlin - but certainly don't intend to let him leave on the cheap.

His manager, still slightly bemused that a key figure should want to quit a promotion-chasing squad when there was no-one bidding for him, said: "If an offer comes in, it will be looked at by the owner who will decide if the value is right.

"Putting in a transfer request is what Freddie wants to do or has been advised to do. It is strange.

"I would understand it if we had turned down a few offers and the player felt frustrated that we weren't allowing him to do this or that and that we over-valued him.

"But that hasn't been the case. We've never turned down an offer for Freddie in the two and a half years he's been here."

So, the big question: why does he want to leave? It's complicated, but then so is Ladapo.

One of his big strengths - and also perhaps one of his main weaknesses - is that he isn't really a team player.

In Freddie's eyes, Freddie is the main man. I'm not sure he'll agree with that yet I think I'm right. As he sees it, he's the striker, the scorer, the strong personality who shoulders the responsibility to be the difference between losses and draws, between draws and victories. And he thrives off it.

It's about him first, the team second, and if he's doing his job and the team win then everyone benefits.

Seventeen goals helped fire the Millers to promotion to the Championship in his debut Covid-shortened season, there were some crucial strikes in the second-tier relegation fight and this term he's already in double figures.

However, if Rotherham are about anything under Warne it is the team and Ladapo, whose contribution can be sporadic and his influence less than calming, hasn't always been a first-choice selection.

It's my understanding that his resentment - justified or otherwise - over that prolonged state of affairs is at the root of his desire for pastures new.

The club turned down my request to interview him this week but he once told me: "All I want to do is play games, score goals and be happy."

The irony is, his transfer request has come during his best spell in a Millers shirt - nine goals in his last 16 matches, the starting role he covets and an evident improvement in his work rate as he's responded in the right way to the competition for places provided by the loan signing of Will Grigg.

There remains, of course, a possibility that he will still be at New York after the window. For him to leave, first a club have to come in for him and, second, they have to put up enough money to satisfy Tony Stewart, the chairman who paid a club record to tempt the Londoner north.

"I wouldn't see him staying as a problem," Warne said. "On the Tuesday after his transfer request, I still put him on the pitch (as a substitute) at Crewe Alexandra. He still tried hard and he scored a screaming goal.

"If he isn’t going to leave then I need him on board for the next four months of the season. His goals have been fundamental to our success and they will continue to be if he stays.

"I am not stupid enough to omit him from the team because he has put in a transfer request. I need him on the pitch, I will use him as long as his attitude in training is spot on. I will continue as normal."

Ladapo is obviously determined to bid farewell. The transfer request - and the subsequent placing of it in the public domain by his camp four days afterwards - rocks the boat at a crucial point in the campaign, burns bridges with fans and is the action of someone gambling on being on his way before the inevitable reaction kicks in.

It suits him and his agent to have the entire EFL knowing he's unsettled and available far more than it does the Millers.

"I don’t know if he wants to encourage attention, you’d have to ask him that," Warne said. "It's a pity it's been leaked. I would have rather kept it in-house. I don't come running to the media every time something happens behind the scenes."

Like most people, I initially thought Ladapo must already have something lined up, but that genuinely doesn't appear to be the case. His manager certainly isn't aware of any club waiting in the wings.

Rotherham, like the player, would prefer any deal to be done without delay.

"I just hope it gets addressed quickly," Warne said. "If he is going to leave I need the opportunity to replace him.

"We have options that we like. If Freddie is to leave, which would be a disappointment to us all, I would rather it happened today than in three weeks' time."

There is no management and backroom team in football more caring, accommodating or geared towards player welfare than the one Warne has assembled.

An undeniable strand to a difficult, unwelcome state of affairs is that someone as driven, restless and self-focused as Ladapo is maybe simply impossible to keep totally content.

In a bonded squad of friends and comrades, what little tension there has been has often had the 28-year-old attached to it. He brings baggage with his ability to bag. At any club, strikers with egos and unshakeable self-belief can be the hardest to manage.

Undisputedly, though, he's scored enough goals, some of which helped bring the extra riches of the Championship, to have justified his fee.

Rotherham will wish him well and not lose sleep if he leaves as long as it's for the right money and they can bring in one of the potential replacements they've identified.

For the player, it would appear to come down to this: 'Play, score goals, be happy.'

In his mind, he hasn't done quite enough of the first, has delivered on the second and now needs other surroundings to find the third.

'Let's go' has a totally different meaning in January 2022 to what it did in June 2019.



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