BLOG ITALIA
Wednesday February 5 2014
Cellino - more than meets the eye

Massimo Cellino is close to finalising his proposed takeover of Leeds United. Luca Cetta profiles the eccentric owner and wonders if fan consternation is warranted.

It looked to be headed south before the adventure actually began. Late last week news filtered through that Leeds boss Brian McDermott was sacked. He was not on the bench a day later as Leeds thrashed Huddersfield Town 5-1. The finger was pointed at Massimo Cellino, their potential new owner. Cellino has agreed to buy 75 per cent of the club - was this the first step in a rocky journey?

Not according to the man himself. “I want the Coach back and have been trying to call him,” Cellino claimed last weekend. “I don’t mind this Coach. How could I sack anyone anyway? I need the approval of the Football League before I own the club. GFH are still running Leeds United.”

Rumours of an impending takeover have been brewing for weeks. On Saturday, Leeds released a statement acknowledging an agreement had been reached between GFH Capital and the Italian entrepreneur. This is not the first time Cellino has showed interest in English football. In 2010 he was close to taking over West Ham. The deal fell through, as did a potential bid for Crystal Palace.

A barricade of angry fans protested the McDermott decision on Friday – the manager has since returned – and perhaps they can be forgiven for thinking Cellino will bring more negativity than rebuild towards a Premier League future.

After all, stories of his fiery and outspoken nature are well documented. He plays guitar in a local band, but when not slinging that axe, he wields one precariously over the head of Cagliari’s tacticians. In two decades, 36 have come and gone.

The Chain-smoker has been frustrated by Cagliari’s stadium debacle. When the Stadio Sant’Elia was deemed incapable of hosting Serie A football in 2012, Cellino shifted Rossoblu home fixtures to Trieste, about as far away as you can get.

Trieste last season shared home duties with the hastily-built Is Arenas. The stadium’s short history was punctuated by safety issues and a reduced capacity. It was slapped with a fan-ban for the visit of Roma, but undeterred, Cellino insisted spectators come anyway. The match was called off and Roma handed the points.

Its construction sent Cellino to jail last February - not his only brush with the law - for suspicion of fraud and embezzlement, along with the mayor of Quartu Sant’Elena, where the stadium is located. “Twelve months after my arrest, I still do not know why I was arrested. I am being made out to be a criminal, but in 21 years I have never disrespected anyone,” he said in a recent interview.

Cellino has frozen players from the first-team squad who have expressed a desire to leave at the end of their contract. Federico Marchetti went from representing Italy at the 2010 World Cup to training on his own in a matter of weeks. Michel Agazzi suffered the fate and was sold to Chievo last month. In Cellino’s mind he, nor the club, are to be taken for a ride.

That’s the other side of Cellino. At the core is a person who loves Cagliari. Born in the city – but now residing in Miami – he has owned the club since 1992. Together through highs and lows. Cagliari were UEFA Cup semi-finalists in 1993-94, but twice suffered relegation to Serie B. Since their 2003-04 promotion, the Isolani have remained in the top flight.

Of his Leeds interest, Cellino noted “I am not a hack, I do not go around buying teams just for fun.” It’s true too of Cagliari. He has poured money into the club for two decades and wants to see it grow. Unfortunately, the 57-year-old has been frustrated by the inability to get the proposed Karalis Stadium, near the city’s airport, from blueprints to steel.

He’s fed up with the lack of development. “We play in a stadium worthy of Serie C and the players had to travel all around Italy for two years because we weren't allowed a home stadium. I can’t keep Radja in these conditions,” alluding to the January transfer of Radja Nainggolan to Roma, despite the player’s desire to stay.

Local newspaper L’Unione Sarda last week reported talks between Cellino and Qatar Sports Investment. The report suggests if a takeover of Cagliari occurred, he’d like to remain President.

Back in England, Cellino has already fostered links between the clubs, loaning Andrea Tabanelli to Leeds. He claims were it not for paperwork hold ups, more deals would have gone through before the transfer deadline. Does he see the club in a similar fashion to the Pozzo-led Watford?

There’s no denying Cellino is somewhere in the Maurizio Zamparini category of Italian club owners. Yet disillusioned by calcio, Cellino’s arrival at Leeds could be the breath of fresh air he - and the club – need. It’s going to be some journey.

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Have your say...
If he is a financial upgrade for Leeds and the new ownership a financial upgrade for Cagliari...how great would that be. I like Cagliari. They've been solid a while...and I like their uniforms.
on the 6th February, 2014 at 11:23pm
im not sure im a big leeds fan n i dnt no wot to mke of the man. i wanna know wot money he gonna giv us for new players before he comes. otherwise we gona be goin round in circles for many mre yers to come. he got a long long way before he becomes a hero
on the 6th February, 2014 at 11:59am
Cellino has to be much better than any consortium coming in. They have no money, that's the whole point of having a consortium.

Reading between the lines at least this chap has got drive, money, and is thick skinned to move Leeds UTD forward.

Bring on next season, no doubt we won't be fighting the play offs... automatic promotion is a must.
on the 6th February, 2014 at 9:23am
CELLINO IN

Welcome

MOT
on the 6th February, 2014 at 8:22am
Massimo do your best. LUFC is massive!
Welcome
To infinity and beyond!
on the 6th February, 2014 at 12:09am
Cellini Please take over Leeds ASAP and Bankrupt them
K
on the 5th February, 2014 at 10:40pm
The premiere league only has 5clubs all the rest are small clubs. It's missing leeds Sheffield we'd notts forest these three clubs alone have the ability to get crowds of 50 000 gates that would make the league more appealing to sponsors. As a leeds fan if we arnt challenging for a place in Europe I'd rather stay where we are.
on the 5th February, 2014 at 10:36pm
Hope cellino takes us over ,, Andy flowers and the business men are skint,, why buy a club with no funds doesn't make sense ,ANDY FLOWERS LEAVE US ALONE!!!!
on the 5th February, 2014 at 8:28pm
Cellino - Keep the faith with the manager and the staff we have (Redders and Nails esp.), they need your backing and you will have theirs.
on the 5th February, 2014 at 6:21pm
Cellino In!!!!

Hurry up Massimo. Fed up with hearing about the "local buisness men" and "Leeds fans" wanting to buy us but not having the financial clout to back it up.

Majority may have been against you originally, however the tides are turning fast. We need you and stick with McDermott and i'm sure you'll eventually be loved by the Elland Road faithful
on the 5th February, 2014 at 5:51pm
Cellino needs to realise Leeds United is not like west ham or crystal palace, it one of the biggest clubs in England no matter what league it is in as it has a large and fanatical fanbase. Spend money and do the best for the team and he'll be loved, mess them about and the fans will be all over him. Leeds is a one club city in the biggest county in england.
Watch these videos to get an idea

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O54WGabJcRg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmtKuRZjpYw
on the 5th February, 2014 at 3:09pm
If Mr Cellini comes to Leeds and gives the fans respect and delivers success he will become a hero in the city and beyond. That said, I think everyone expects a bumpy ride along the way.
on the 5th February, 2014 at 2:38pm

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