BLACKBURN Rovers star striker Jordan Rhodes was on his way to Hull City, according to Steve Bruce.
Speaking after his side’s Premier League clash with Stoke City yesterday Tigers boss Bruce said he thought he ‘had’ Rhodes ‘24 hours ago’ but that the transfer was now ‘further away than ever’ after Rovers owners Venky’s stepped in.
Hull were willing to pay more than £10m – and throw in Bruce’s son, defender Alex Bruce, as part of the deal – to land the hitman.
But Venky’s put a halt to the negotiations and made it clear they have no intention of letting Rhodes leave by issuing a strongly worded statement hours before the success over Bournemouth on Saturday.
The 24-year-old went on to open the scoring in the 3-2 win with his 54th goal on what was his 100th appearance for Rovers following his club record £8m move from Huddersfield Town two years ago.
That led Gary Bowyer – who jetted out to India straight after the match to discuss his transfer plans with Venky’s – to pay tribute to the ‘magnificent’ Rhodes’ professionalism.
And team-mates of the Scotland international, including Corry Evans, were quick to follow their manager’s lead.
But while Steve Bruce believes Rovers do not want to sell the £12m-rated Rhodes at ‘any price’ he has hinted that will not stop the Tigers from testing the waters again this week.
Steve Bruce said: “It’s difficult because we got an indication off Blackburn two or three days ago that they were prepared to sell, so that’s why we’ve gone down the road we have.
“It’s their prerogative, if he’s not for sale, he’s not for sale, and we’ll have to accept that.
“Who knows? We’ll have a conversation with them over the next 24-48 hours and if it’s not to be, we’ll move on.
“I don’t think it’s about money now. What we’re getting back at the moment is he’s not for sale at any price.”
Midfielder Evans, who joined Rovers from Hull last summer, said: “Credit to Jordan for putting in a performance like he did on Saturday with all the speculation surrounding him – it goes to show how professional and mentally tough he is.
“What he brings to the team in terms of goals is second to none in this league – it’s very hard to replace.
“He does the hardest thing to do in football – that’s score and he does it with such ease.
“You’re guaranteed 25-plus goals every season from him and to keep him will be a massive to us and the fans in our aim to get promoted.”
Bowyer believes the stance Venky’s have taken over Rhodes has given ‘everybody a lift that’s connected with the club’.
But the Rovers boss, who has been restricted to two free transfers and one loan signing this summer, knows he still has to strengthen if his side are to stand a stronger chance of winning promotion.
That is the purpose of the pre-planned meeting with Venky’s in Pune where Bowyer will discover whether he can bolster his squad before the window for permanent signings closes next Monday.
But it is clear that Venky’s do not want to cash in on ‘icon’ Rhodes to raise funds.
Rovers director of communications Alan Myers said: “The owners of Blackburn Rovers wish to reassure fans that their intention is not to sell Jordan Rhodes as they, along with the manager and board of directors, feel that he is integral to our bid to gain promotion back to the Premier League.
“Despite the necessity to comply with and address the pending restrictions of FFP regulations, the owners feel it would be a detrimental step to lose our top goalscorer and such an icon of this football club.”