The “Italian Job” Enters a New Phase

With Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani, having completed his takeover at Leeds United on May the 23rd, the question on most Leeds’ fans’ lips is, will he finally ensure a period of stability in the club boardroom after years of upheaval?

From Peter Ridsdale to Ken Bates, from GFH Capital to Massimo Cellino, the past few decades have been far from bliss for United. Cellino’s rise to majority stakeholder in April 2014 had promised new hope but he proved to be nothing more than a loose cannon, both on and off the pitch. Appointing seven managers and sacking six during his three-year period as owner of Leeds, Cellino clearly lived upto his nickname as the so-called “manager eater”, whilst the three Football League bans he was issued with did little to clarify the off-the-field situation either. Cellino, the former Cagliari owner, began showing a willingness to accept offers for his stake in the club after beginning to irritate the United faithful with his off-field temperament and handling of the club, and, subsequently gave up a 50% share to Radrizzani in January 2017. Still, United fans were taking nothing for granted that Radrizzani would complete his takeover as widely expected, thus his full takeover a few days ago would no doubt have been met with a huge sigh of relief.

Radrizzani, also now the chairman of United, can be credited with more of a humble background than tax-evader Cellino. Founder of the Play for Change foundation, Radrizzani has been at the forefront of initiating sports programmes for children and their communities around the world to help improve health, education, employment and inequality. As owner of the global investment company Aser, which invests in both media and sport, as well as being owner of MP & Silva, an international sports rights company, Radrizzani evidently possesses the business and sport acumen that could, in his own words, move Leeds “forward to the next level”. Will this “move forward” finally mean the long-awaited injection of cash into the infrastructure and team, where the three-million pound signing of Kemar Roofe had been their most expensive signing under Cellino’s tenure, that could propel Leeds into the promise land of the Premier League, a place where their passionate and long-suffering fans believe they ‘belong’?

Upon completing his takeover, the Italian spoke of his “long-term commitment” to the West Yorkshire club and, inevitably, one of the most urgent calls from fans had been to ensure the future of Garry Monk as manager. Monk, in his debut season with the club, led the Whites to a lofty seventh place, five points outside the play-off places. But, in a controversial move, Monk resigned on Thursday, with rumours of a switch to Middlesbrough on the cards. The on-field stability which Leeds has so desperately lacked in recent seasons looks set to continue with no concrete rumours as to who will replace Monk as of yet. And, despite stating in one recent interview, “I’ve been working hard all season to do what we’ve been doing, which is working to get Leeds into the Premier League”, striker Chris Wood continues to be linked to a move away from Leeds with Premier League sides Newcastle, West Ham and Everton all keen to pay big money for the striker. Likewise, it is now even more uncertain that Kyle Bartley, an integral part of Leeds’ play-off push, will remain in absence of Monk at the helm. Despite Radrizzani announcing his intention to keep Monk as manager, it appears as though his takeover failed to instil confidence in Monk or, rather, a promise to give Monk the wages and the possible “money chest” that Boro could offer him to propel the Teesiders back into the Premier League.

Leeds have been in this position before, but perhaps most worryingly, not off the back of such a positive season. Can Radrizzani steady the ship and appoint someone as calm, optimistic and tactically clever as Monk? Only time will tell.

Callum Walker

Image Credit: Leeds United FC

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