Andrea Radrizzani was officially unveiled as co-owner of Leeds United at a press at Elland Road on Saturday and he revealed a bit more of the history behind his investment and his plans for the future. Radrizzani had a busy week touring the facilities and meeting the staff at both Elland Road and Thorp Arch and meeting supporters groups before watching the Derby game alongside Massimo Cellino.
Owning a football club has been a long term ambition of Radrizzani’s, though he admitted that he had not planned it for this particular period in his life. Only after a chat over lunch with Kenny Dalglish about Leeds United and hearing of Cellino’s intention to sell last May did Radrizzani initiate negotiations to become a club owner. So why Leeds United?
Of course Leeds, the club has a huge heritage, past and the tradition and the history has been amazing for Leeds. They have achieved great success and made Leeds a club well known internationally in many countries. Even in these days after the acquisition I got messages from everywhere in the world; Scandinavia, Australia, America. It has big potential as a club, great project to work on. I'm always attracted by challenges so I'm happy to take this challenge. It will be hard, it will be a difficult project but I'm ready to do my best.
Appearing beside Radrizzani was his fellow co-owner Massimo Cellino. Radrizzani has an option to gain full control of the club in the summer but until then, Football league bans depending, he will have to work alongside Cellino. So what is their relationship like?
So far we never had any issues to decide. Since May, even though I wasn’t a shareholder of the club, he always involved me in any important decisions about the building of the team. He was really fair to me in this period. Until now we never had a problem.
Now we really are partners so we will start to have different agendas and discussions about the progression of the club in the future but we can easily manage Leeds together if we give responsibility and delegate to the management. We have a good team here.
We found a way to start together and hopefully to continue together. For me it’s a perfect solution because I have time to learn about the club and football gradually, not in a rush. I start now and I have time to learn and be ready for next season.
The victory against Derby county was one of the stand-out performance of the year so far. Leeds dominated the visitors in the first half and finished the game having had a staggering twenty one shots on target. Radrizzani has been to games at Elland Road before but this was his first as an owner and what a start it was.
It couldn’t be a better start for me. It was a beautiful evening, a lot of emotion. I knew what being a football owner was in the last 60 seconds because they were never ending!
I’m honoured to have the opportunity here and I’m grateful to Massimo for giving me the opportunity. This club have been unlucky with roller-coaster experiences and different owners in the last decade so the first objective in my ownership and management will definitely be to bring more stability to the club.
I’ll bring this club (forward) gradually to be a modern structure, a modern club and be ready for when we are back in the top league.
Leeds fans will point to Garry Monk as being the main reason behind our success this year. A young, tactically astute manager with great potential for the future achieving great things. There is still a question mark over his future at the club with his current deal up at the end of the year. Will Radrizzani put an end to that uncertainty?
It's not a big issue, to be honest. We are in communication – myself, Massimo Cellino and Garry Monk. I see that all the three parties are convinced and have the intention to stay together. Sooner or later we will sit down. At the moment, everyone is focused on the day-to-day work. We will fix this, I am very confident we will fix it.
The January transfer window is normally a time to strengthen for that promotion push but with the clear team spirit and togetherness shown by the players every game it is difficult to see where new signings would fit in. Recent selection issues have been answered by both Monk and the players. Lewie Coyle looked like a seasoned pro against Derby and Luke Ayling, although not tested much, looked comfortable at centre back. Does Radrizzani think we need to strengthen?
We are aligned completely, me, Massimo and Garry on what we need. We don’t want to touch the balance of the team. The performance on the pitch and also inside the locker room, everything is working really well. We are looking at potentially one or two players who Garry mentioned. We’re working on that.
Finally, as is asked of every new owner since Gerald Krasner and the Yorkshire Consortium sold Elland Road to Jacob Adler in 2004, the question of buying back the stadium. Elland Road is close to the hearts of Leeds fans but is Radrizzani considering buying back the ground?
It’s an important topic, Elland Road is an iconic venue, not only for Leeds but for English football. All fans are very loyal to this stadium so it’s one of my priorities to evaluate the option to exercise the opportunity to buy back the stadium. I’m not promising this but I promise I will evaluate very carefully in the new few months the business case to buy it back. But we also need to analyse what is required to make it a little bit more modern.
All in all Radrizzani comes across as enthusiastic and intelligent but calm and thoughtful too, the complete opposite to Cellino is so many ways. He has not made wild promises around signings or Elland Road but all signs point to a long term investment and strategy designed to take Leeds United back to the peak of English football. Once bitten twice shy as the saying goes though and after four previous owners since Leeds United PLC became no more it is right to be cautious of any new custodian of our great club. I do feel positive though, it feels like things both on and off the pitch are finally heading in the right direction. It's a good time to be a Leeds fan and Andrea Radrizzani has picked a good time to join this club and the emotional rollercoaster we are all on.