Andrea Radrizzani has always been clear about his ambition for Leeds United. A fire year plan to get them back to the Premier League. He has also been clear that he has no intention of cutting and running but would always look at strategic partners who could invest in the club and help him realise that plan. The San Francisco 49ers investment was a prime example of this, not only did they bring money to the table but also a wealth of experience in running a sports team and all the commercial and operational experience that comes with that. This summer the big rumours surrounded potential investment from Qatar Sports Investments.
Ever since Radrizzani completed his take-over of Leeds United there have been links with Qatar. This initially came in the form of the partnership with the Aspire Academy, a Qatari based sports organization, renowned for being one of the finest academies in the world with ties to some of the biggest clubs in Europe. Aspire own Belgian club KAS Eupen and Spanish side Cultural Leonesa, a name Leeds United fans will be familiar with following the loan moves of Ouasim Bouy and Yosuke Ideguchi. The Director General of the Aspire Academy is Ivan Bravo, who also sat on the Leeds United board for a time.
Those links have now emerged again with Radrizzani revealing his is considering three proposals for investment from a total of more than twenty since he completed his purchase of Leeds United. One of these proposals is from QSI whose chairman Nasser al-Khelaifi is a business associate of Radrizzani. An investment that could see Leeds United rival Premier League champions Manchester City in terms of wealth at their disposal. The identities of the other potential investors have not been revealed though one is said to be a rich US based Leeds fan and the other the owner of an Italian football club. Radrizzani told The Times…
I have been approached by more than 20 parties and I have selected these three. The option of Qatar Sports Investment and Nasser — first of all they are friends, we have had a good relationship for a long time. Secondly, they have the possibility to bring this club to compete with Manchester City, so for the fans that could be a fantastic opportunity. The second is based in America, he’s a big fan of Leeds United since he was a child, and I like that. Another one is the owner of an Italian club. With another club you can create synergy to be more competitive and to target the Premier League — we could maybe get a loan to increase the quality of the team.
Radrizzani reaffirmed his plan was to take Leeds United back to the Premier League and insists the size of his stake in the club and any potential returns are secondary to this goal. With promotion narrowly missed last year Radrizzani looks to be seeking strategic partners to help him realise his goals, especially given the spiralling costs of owning a Championship club. Leeds United’s wage bill is now around the £33 million mark plus an additional £6 million for Marcelo Bielsa and his team which represents a huge investment in itself.
When it will be done, it doesn’t matter which share, it matters that I can continue my project and also have the support to build this club back again. L’appetito vien mangiando, as we say in Italy — appetite comes while you are eating. I don’t need to sell but it is important to listen because I always remember I am a custodian of the club. If it was my own business I would treat it a bit differently. It is very expensive, I invested over £90 million — with this level of money you could own a Europa League club in most of the European leagues, including Italy.
The club makes losses, in this league it is impossible not to. We are still paying the consequences of my first year because I was inexperienced and we made some expensive mistakes with players. But we haven’t stopped investing. Bielsa and his staff cost £6 million, we bought many other players and I think we have a squad to be promoted. It’s financially not sustainable to keep this level of salary which is now over £30 million, probably £33 million with Marcelo and closer to £40 million with the coaches.
Many Leeds fans questioned the depth of Andrea Radrizzani’s pockets this summer and the validity of the FFP excuses given by the club, especially considering the amounts spent by some of our promotion rivals. But it’s encouraging to see the Italian admitting the mistakes he made during his first season and also acknowledging that investment may be required to get the club back to where they belong. No investment will be quick as Radrizzani considers his options carefully but this is the first time he has given any detail regarding the offers on the table since the news about QSI broke this summer. These could be exciting times for Leeds United.
There is no doubt Leeds are one of the sleeping giants of English football, sleeping giants who started to stir again last season thanks to the inspirational Marcelo Bielsa. The prospect of promotion last season rekindled past glories and there have been plenty of glorious moments in Leeds United’s past. Champions of England three times, FA Cup and League Cup winners, Inter-Cities Fairs Cup champions twice and European Cup final and semi-finalists. Next week Leeds United celebrate their centenary season, 100 years since a meeting at the Salem Hall in Hunslet gave birth to the club from the ashes of Leeds City.
With a little bit of investment Leeds United could be great again.