Daily Archives: 17/02/2014

Could Oil-Rich Al Thanis Gazump Cellino to Buy Leeds Utd? – by Rob Atkinson

That nice Al Thani family, with dodgy geezer to the right

That nice Al Thani family, with dodgy geezer to the right

With all of this takeover kerfuffle going on (and on, and on…) – there’s something slightly odd about some of the reported arithmetic out there.  We hear that Massimo Cellino has just about purchased 75% of Leeds United for a figure said to be in the region of £25 million.  He would then have to buy the ground, settle debts, sort out various other ongoing issues such as the fatal weaknesses in the squad – all in all he’s not likely to get more than a few coppers change out of £60 million, and we understand that the deal would leave him stuck with various items of GFH detritus in executive positions. That’s quite a lot of wedge for a hands-on type of guy to lash out, just to be il Presidente.

On the other side of Massimo’s ledger is the ongoing sale of his first love, Cagliari, a small Sardinian club who have clung onto Serie A membership for the bulk of his tenure there since 1992.  That deal – which appears to be stuttering – is rumoured to be worth around €90 million to the Italian.  So it appears possible that he could conclude his football business for the month without spending any of this year’s alleged €200m income or shaving off any of his alleged €1.2bn capital.  Conclusive proof of all of this is furnished by readily-accessible Instagram pictures of Signor Cellino’s nubile daughter wiggling her extremely shapely derrière against a background of Elland Road as seen from an expensive position in the East Stand.

The strange thing is – why would the Al Thani family wish to purchase a struggling Italian club at the wrong end of a small island, lacking a stadium and destined to be forever in the shadow of the Italian mainland giants?  Why would they, in Cellino’s own words, be so keen to invest a solid lump of money in a Fiat 500?  Could they not simply ignore the Cellino factor, and move in on Leeds United – a club with its nose pressed up against the window of the most lucrative league in the world, with a stadium available for purchase at a good price and ripe for development, with an exclusive catchment area of support as well as a global fan-base voraciously hungry for anything to do with the Whites – to find themselves as Premier League owners-in-waiting?  Wouldn’t they rather compete on level terms with the Abramoviches and the Sheikh Mansours of this world – than scratch around from an offshore position with the relatively tiny potential of Cagliari, to try and make a mark on the mighty Italian league?

Naturally, the agreement that supposedly exists between GFH and Cellino might well stand firmly in the way of all this.  But, as the days go by, there is a growing feeling that all may not be well with that deal.  The Football League appear to be umming and ah-ing to themselves.  Their rules are fairly clear and, by the letter of them, Cellino ought to be OK to proceed.  But the League are under pressure from various sources – not all of them by any means kindly disposed towards Leeds United – and that pressure is directed at having the League look to the spirit, rather than the letter, of their so-called “Fit and Proper Person” test.  Cellino, so the argument runs, could charitably be described as “well dodgy”.  Even worse than the anti-Christ himself, Bates who, while a villain, was at least an unconvicted one.  Cellino will point in his defence to one spent conviction and one that was quashed.  But that hardly adds up to a model of blameless and virtuous conduct – and there’s still that little matter of an embezzlement charge hanging over his head.

The “Farnan Group”, poised like vultures in case the League do reject Cellino, don’t really inspire too much confidence either.  They were saying last week that would match Cellino’s offer for the club.  Their position more recently is best summed up as: “Erm, well, no, we won’t actually.  But we might buy the stadium, and, erm – oh look just talk to us, right?”  There’s not much more than meaningless noise coming from that direction.

And then there is the time factor.  When the Daily Mail aren’t making up silly stories of imminent loan deals for the Stoke ‘keeper and a Sunderland striker, they’re gleefully anticipating the end of the month when, they confidently predict, Leeds will be unable to stump up for the wages bill.  As ever with the Mail, you have to choose what to believe – and if you’re wise, you’ll just call it all lies, tear the paper up and use it to line the rabbit’s hutch.  Actually, if you were really wise, you wouldn’t have bought such a rag in the first place.

Currently, and as has been the case for the best part of the last decade or so, the state of Leeds United is best summed-up as: a total mess.  It’s much more of a mess now, in fact, than it has been even at various historical low points this century; now we have a maelstrom of conflicting parties, bumbling and incompetent higher authorities who are not fit to arbitrate at a coin-toss, and an almost entirely hostile media who have never forgiven us for being The Best under Don Revie, and who are determined to accentuate the negative, predicting our demise at every opportunity.

How beautifully simple it would be if someone could take a step back, do the elementary arithmetic, have a word in an Al Thani shell-like to explain what an attractive deal awaits the right multi-billionaire, and sit back to watch Leeds United emerge, phoenix-like, from the ashes of this embarrassing and degrading free-for-all which is currently sapping the fans of their will to live.

It’s too much to hope for, of course.  The question has long been asked – why can’t Leeds attract someone in the Mansour class?  And that someone is out there, right now, shopping for a club. How bloody frustrating is that?