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?

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

  1. yes i think its going to be the althanis family myself


  2. I gather this article came about during your morning shaving session in front of the mirror as you were ruminating ??? Don’t be so arrogant please, the Cagliari fans deserve more respect than this, why should everyone have to believe Leeds is the bigger catch !


    • When have I disrespected the Cagliari fans? If I say Leeds are bigger than Rochdale, does that disrespect their fans? But it’s a fact, despite the fact they knocked us out of the Cup. I believe that everything I’ve said about Cagliari is justifiable, and I’m not in the habit of letting people advise me about the way I write my blog. The phrase “Don’t be so arrogant please” smacks of arrogance itself – some, after all, might have said “Don’t you feel you’re being arrogant?”. You seem to feel that you’re somehow qualified to lecture others on how to behave, but I have to say I just don’t see it.


  3. If only Rob.

    But nothing simple ever happens with Leeds


  4. You forgot to add the dot dot dot “please” at the end of the title…


  5. Rob, I think 80 million is nearer the mark to also bring in five or six quality players. If I was advising a buyer I think I would say have 100 million cash available. Leeds United is like one of those restoration reality TV shows where they buy a clapped out property for 500k and think it will all be done for another 250k only to find they really need 1.5 million!


  6. Good read Rob I’LL be happy to get Cellino over the line asap


  7. I’ll settle for anyone with a billion as long as we can get rid of those parasites gfh.


    • It’s been one long succession of parasites, Leeds Mick. Ridsdale left us, (hurrah!) only for Bates to slither in. Bates left us – hurrah! Only for his annointed successors GFH(C) despite making all the right noises, proving abject failures just as parasitic and ruinous as their predecessors. There is not one bit of evidence in an ownership record of 21 years that suggests Cellino will prove any more beneficial to our club. In fact, it suggests that, like all successful parasites, he will steadily suck the life out of his victim while not completely killing it. If his bid is successful, I HOPE for some unexpected success for the football club, but this is not supported by anything that has actually happened at Cagliari.


  8. You can’t help but wonder what the FL are up to. Did they procrastinate for this long with any other clubs dodgy owners. I think not.
    It just fuels the belief that absolutely EVERYONE hates us, now that doesn’t usually bother me but when it’s the guys who run the league that is simply not fair or good enough.
    It would serve the bastards right if the Arab family did buy us and invest millions unfortunately it’s just wishful thinking Rob.


  9. El Tel on Tour

    With contracts exchanged only the football league can stop the deal now so this is mostly wishful thinking. Also the £25m cost includes the cost of taking on the debts, it’s not a cash payment just for 75% of the club. It’s much cheaper to get an Italian team into the top flight and keep them there so that might well be tha attraction (plus the nicer weather of course)


  10. We’ll it is a well written and very entertaining blog and the response to Vale White is a classic! What would we do during this long laborious process called the takeover if we did not have the words and wisdom of our old left winger plugging away for us!


  11. David Smith

    Rob – as you say, we are fast losing the will to live. Whilst we have chewed the cud many times on why the likes of Messrs Abramovich & Monsour have overlooked our beloved club, perhaps the London club factor in the case of Ambramovich, but then again why did the sheikh buy the sky blues of Manchester? I hope I live long enough to read the definitive truth in someone’s memoirs – if I had to put 10p on it – I suspect it’s the Bates factor ?


  12. Won’t be happy until the fans own the club. Would like to see more efforts from LUST in this regard, I.e. raising capital to buy a small share. Even just a seat on the board would be a start.


  13. Rob

    Cagliari a) they’re a Serie A side and b) more importantly, the Al Thani family have property interests in Sardinia, which are related to the deal.

    Today’s news in Italy btw is that former FIA (and QPR) chairman Flavio Briatore is acting as go between on the Al Thani deal.

    Also, this season’s Serie A is similar to the EPL, in that there is a long list of candidates for relegation who all seem intent on making life difficult for themselves. Cagliari, though currently 15th, lost a 6 pointer at home to Livorno yesterday and their record since November is similar to Leeds, with one win in the last 9 games.

    Rumour in Italy is that Cagliari manager Lopez could be sacked by the morning, maybe even by the time I have finished typing this.

    BTW I’m not personally anti Cellino (I also think he’s inevitable; he has spent less time in jail than Sullivan at WHU, and has fewer fraud convictions than Briatore had when he took over QPR; and don’t even get me started on Chelsea; to be honest I can’t understand the delay). And as to why Leeds can’t attract an Al Mansour – Man City had, before their current owners, Shinawatra. QPR went through Briatore/Ecclestone to get where they are now. West Ham currently have Gold and Sullivan (and I think WHU will find rich buyers in the next few years, partly because of the stadium); and so on.

    Oh, and Marcotti’s tweet about “wrong end of a small island” was actually: “@PhilHayYEP Bc there is a high demand in the Middle East for a small club with no stadium at the wrong end of a depressed island”. I took that also as a double edged comment on Leeds.


  14. Counte Of Monte Fisto

    Dave the Man City one is simple, 3 factors in order
    1 – Already in the premier league so in the gravy not the **** like us
    2 – Brand new stadium paid for by the tax payer for the commonwealth games
    3 – Reasonably big club with a reasonable catchment area
    To me no 1 & 2 matter more than 3 to most billionaires.
    Anyone can make a club in these days!
    After all in the 80/90’s yo-yo club Chelski were lucky to get mid teens as an attendance. Bang crash whallop dosh dosh dosh and £700m later they are a 40k club with shirts sold on every market stand from Cornwall to Carlisle.
    Many people think size of club is everything, I think it’s the ease of the deal i.e. already in the prem, simple ownership to unravel, limited (& easy debt), clear ownership of stadium & other facilities.
    Squad quality, history etc all mean jack to any new foreign owner. Just buy the club change the name change the strip, move city & bang you’ve got Leeds Bangalore Tigers playing in shanghai city in front of a live audience of 2 and a tv audience of a billion.
    Football died with the start of the premier league & sky’s all pervading influence.
    Conclusion – I am a hypocrite like all of you, I don’t care who owns us or about their past so long as they have billions to spend. Nice billionaires who have never harmed anything name me one


  15. Cagliari is the sixth team in Italy for number of fans.
    Cagliari was it the Italian champions 1969/70.
    Cagliari sant’elia stadium in the past reached 60,000 spectators.
    Cagliari have a team from the sixth / seventh place but corporate events are penalizing the team.
    Cagliari is not a small team.
    The Sardinia is one of the most beautiful islands in the world with the most beautiful sea in the world and has a huge tourism potential.
    The family Al Thanis has already made large investments in Sardinia.
    The family has Thanis At the very important tourism projects in southern Sardinia (Cagliari).

    Mr. Rob Atkinson, these are the reasons, sorry for my english ..
    Respect for Cagliari



  16. I have to say much like many of the Leeds United faithful, I was staunchly against the Cellino takeover a few weeks ago after the B McD debacle. However, he does have money, and significantly more than all the other bidders. This has to be good news in the short term. Financial stability, our own ground, both good platforms to build on.

    I have a couple of concerns however. He is clearly very eccentric, some may even say a loose cannon, life under Cellino will be interesting to say the least. In the short term I do believe he is our best hope of attaining PL status, but I do question his commitment after that. Cagliari have been a Serie A mainstay for much of his tenure, but haven’t really achieved anything notable. Minimal investment in the squad, turning around players for good profit, his main focus has been on the business, not the football. Just enough investment to stay afloat. And this worries me,

    Even if we do manage to escape the Championship clutches (in the right direction!), I worry we will be no more than an average PL side fighting for survival each year like the West Hams, Aston Villas and Stokes of this world. We all want to be in the top flight, but do we want to endure a relegation dog fight year upon year?

    On the bright side however, at least we’d get more than 20 seconds on the BBC on a Saturday night. Even if we are on last.


  17. Lets just say being a leeds fan is never boring for better or for worse


  18. Kev mcgarrigle

    On another point,
    When Cellino finally gets the stamp of approval and as promised he purchases ER and TA, who do you think actually owns these valuable pieces or real estate.
    What are your thoughts Rob


  19. I’m still waiting for you to present your evidence that a/ Cellino is a diamond geezer and b/ Farnon and co. (who have city backing, have shown proof of funds to GFH, and lack criminal convictions) are a pack of liars.

    As for Cagliari, the amount of cash involved is weird and probably involves dodgy property dealing somewhere down the line. And I wish you’d stop making them out to be like Rochdale only lacking a stadium (lacking a stadium! But they had one when Il Saviour bought them, didn’t they?). The small island is about as remote as East Anglia (fairly remote, then). Cagliari won Serie A back in 1970, and I think you’ll find that Juve, AC and Inter Milan weren’t on holiday that year. Cellino’s first love hasn’t benefited from its tender treatment at his hands.

    Speaking of Inter, they have a famous fan called Messimo Cellino. Must be someone else, right?

    I’m not a hypocrite. How depressing that, apart from John Giles, only people who’ve been Leeds fans for as long as myself or longer (‘idiots’ for short) are against this deal. It’s been really weird, not going to football, but at least I’m not going to suffer this mess.

    While you’re at it please explain, clearly, why Brian and his signings are rubbish. I think that to get a 41% win rate out of the crap he inherited and a bunch of promising young players is good. Some bad performances, but that’s because we’re lucky to be out of a relegation fight. I still don’t understand why McDermott, Smith, Stewart, Murphy and co are crap.

    On the subject of realism, those few of us who can add up reckon that the size of the wage bill and the money invested in new players is the reason we’ve lost money this season. (11 million just this season, not ‘OMG, we need a sugar daddy because wer’e losing more than a million a month and it’s getting worse and worse’). In the summer several million come off the wage bill and we get 3.3 million of season ticket money back, plus catering and whatever else. Do try some maths. We got into apparent trouble because GFH didn’t get their investors in quickly enough, i.e. because they gave Haigh and Flowers so much time. No other reason.

    Still hoping the League grow a pair. Still hoping Leeds fans wake up before it’s too late. Still dreaming, like Joe, of a time when fans own clubs and still hoping that people will only realise that it’s Farnon’s lot, or someone like them, who offer the best chance of a foothold.

    As if it matters. This is practically a done deal. Cellino will be in along with a shower of shop-soiled loanee Varneys precoccupied with avoiding injury.


    • No evidence John, all opinion – as excellently exemplified by your last paragraph. It’s what makes the football writing – as opposed to reporting – world go ’round.


  20. Counte Of Monte Fisto

    On a different note have you seen Cellino’s daughter in the picture at ER.


    • I have – I was impressed enough to refer to it in the blog! Hmmmm. I think 100 lines is in order: I must concentrate and read Rob’s articles thoroughly 😉


  21. I never used to entertain conspiracy theories, the older I have got, and the longer I have supported Leeds, (31 years), the more I adopt the philosophy, expect and plan for the worst and you wont be shocked, even if I am still flumoxed by the whole debacle that has been going on far too long already. This leads me to believe that by the time this takeover happens it will be too late, and the team and us the supporters will have to resign ourselves to an 11th year in the wilderness. I have found myself praying nightly that we go on a run now, and everyone else above us loses their games, failing that I am of the opinion of the great Edwin Gray that 6th place is the only realistic/mathmatically possible place up for grabs, and if the players, like Brian, can keep focused on the pitch, and forget everything else. We can do it. So long as we finish above Watford in the process, as I have a £100 bet with my mate we will, and I want it back, after he took the same amount off me last season for the same bet.

    Once again Sterling work Bard Rob


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