Daily Archives: 08/07/2014

Is New Leeds United Recruit Nicola Salerno the Real Deal-Maker? – by Rob Atkinson

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Salerno – wheels and deals

Hold on a minute – just one cotton-picking minute. What’s all this then? The transfer window has suddenly become vibrant, even interesting – even for Leeds United. So what’s all that about? We all know, as Leeds United fans, that transfer windows are supposed to be bleak exercises in dashed hopes and futility – but all of a sudden, things are actually happening.  Good things. To Leeds. Blimey. It doesn’t seem quite real.

Today has brought a sudden flurry of news, almost all of it good – or at least, not as disastrous as the tidings we are more used to receiving. OK, our badge-kissing, self-justification-tweeting skipper, Mr Ross McCormack has departed. Amazingly, given the fact that he was our top scorer – in fact the league’s top scorer last season – this not entirely unexpected news has been greeted in a largely positive and realistic fashion, give or take the odd hopeless case who’s always going to whinge because it’s their default setting.

Ross has gone – and whither is he heading?  Why, to just any club, of course – just the very thing he said he wouldn’t do, preferring to stick it out at Leeds and win promotion, even above “just any Premier League club”. So he’s ended up at just any Championship outfit, smaller than Leeds United in every imaginable respect but the financial one.  What, I wonder, could possibly have been his motivation??  All the best, Ross – and don’t let counting your wedge put you off those goal-scoring exploits and, of course, your Twitter outbursts.  You may well end up being the least-missed top scorer in Leeds United history.

Strange as it may seem, Leeds United’s most important capture of the close season may already have taken place with the recruitment from Massimo Cellino’s former possession Cagliari of Nicola Salerno, whose speciality is apparently the sniffing-out of players for his boss to introduce into the team, nurture and then sell on – at a profit.  In this way, stability might arise out of long-term penury and crisis, with transfer net profits being re-invested into more recruitment, and so on.  It sounds good – and it worked well enough at Cagliari to keep an unfashionable and comparatively tiny club in Serie A for extended periods, including forays into Europe, with the development of several fine players from fairly low-profile raw recruits. On the same day that McCormack exited the back door at Leeds United, two such low-profile (to us) Italian players were entering via the front.  So, it seems, the process has begun; sell high, buy low, develop the talent, rinse and repeat.

So can this model work at Leeds United?  There is a glass ceiling easily detectable if we look far enough ahead into the possible future of the club; the time would come when significant investment would be needed simply to keep the club in the Premier League after promotion is secured within Salerno’s three year – ideally two year – time frame. But in the meantime, this Cellino/Salerno plan might well be the way in which we can start to make some headway again – after far too long of, at best, treading water.

Rarely have I seen the sale of arguably our best player received with such positivity and enthusiasm – even outbreaks of common sense. Probably that has a lot to do with the frankly ludicrous fee we appear to have blagged out of Fulham – more mugs them. I suspect that McCormack will not be pulling up quite such huge trees down there as he did with Leeds last season – but we will see.  The fact remains that – given the choice of a sulky striker and serial Twitter-whinger, or 11 million lovely sponds, ripe for the reinvesting – there’s little doubt that we’re better off with the latter.

Yes, folks, I’m feeling positive.  I’m expecting more deadwood to be cut away from the club, no more high-profile departures (unless, as with Ross, it’s undeniably for the good of the club) – and quite a few more arrivals. Net result; a leaner, fitter Leeds United – a Leeds United who can start to make some serious progress.

A last thought.  McCormack has said one reason behind his move (as opposed to all of those crisp, bankable, paper reasons) is that “it’s not the Leeds United I fell in love with”.  But is that a bad thing, from our point of view?  Cast your mind back.  What was the Leeds United that McCormack fell in love with?  It was a club under the jackboot of Ken Bates, wasn’t it?  A club that the fans were almost ashamed to own up to, a club in the process of decay, as that horrible Papa Smurf had decreed back in 1984 when certain freelance Yorkshire demolition contractors sorted out his Stamford Bridge scoreboard for him. Mr McCormack might wistfully pine for those days, but forgive us if we fans don’t. Perhaps Ross might not recognise or appreciate it, but the club he fell in love with is in a much better place now.  Or so I believe.

The next couple of weeks should be exciting and eventful ones for Leeds fans. We might not be signing big names, but we can hope for young, hungry, talented players who will breathe new life into what had seemed a moribund outfit.  I’ll take that, just as happily as I’d have taken Fulham’s eleven million, had it been up to me.  For a new start and some players with the appetite for the fight and an eye on success, I’d snatch your hands off.

The future starts here.  Goodbye, Ross – you are now irrelevant. It’s onwards and upwards for Leeds, our owner, our deal-fixer and a coach who sorted us out good and proper when we came up against him at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in 2006. That’s a good place from which to start Marching On Together again.  On and on and on.

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Fulham’s Shahid Khan “Mugged” in Broad Daylight by Shady Italian – by Rob Atkinson

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McCormack – business or mugging?

Concerns are being raised about safety on the streets of south-west London, after the owner of Fulham FC, Shahid Khan, was allegedly mugged in broad daylight yesterday.  The American billionaire, 490th wealthiest person in the world, claimed that he was strolling along minding his own business when suddenly, out of the blue, he was waylaid by a man he identifies only as “Big Mass”, apparently a rival of Khan’s in the world of sport and finance.  Khan alleges that he was taken by surprise as the assailant appeared suddenly in his path, demanding money.  Anxious to avoid any unpleasantness, he gave up the contents of his wallet, some 11 million pounds.

The suspect in the matter, the man known only as Big Mass, was later questioned by police, but denied any wrongdoing.  “Was business deal, my friend” he is said to have claimed, before being released without charge. Mr Khan admits that he was presented with a second-tier footballer for use in his club Fulham’s forthcoming relegation fight, but he maintains that the transaction was more robbery than business.  “£11 million is a lot of money,” he lamented. “Would I really pay that much, willingly, for an ageing forward with only one good season behind him??”

A police spokesman commented: “We can find no evidence of any criminal activity here.  Money changed hands, as did the registration of a professional footballer.  We can see as clearly as anyone that the deal is lopsidedly in favour of the selling party, but that’s not actually illegal – not unless duress can be shown.  On the face of it, Mr Khan has simply been rather naive in paying so far over the odds.  But this appears to have been a case of being made a mug of, rather than an actual mugging.”

Local safety watchdogs were not so sure that things were as innocent as the police appear to accept.  One of their number is Fulham fan and part-time actor Hugh Grant, a man with some experience of the justice system at home and abroad.  Grant felt that there had been foul play, albeit very difficult to prove – and that vulnerable southern-based football club owners would need to be wary in future.  “This Big Mass chap seems to have got away with it big-time here,” Grant said, brushing back a floppy lock of hair from his forehead and smiling wryly. “We’re all going to have to be on the look-out – and we’ll be suggesting that Mr Khan is more careful about carrying large sums of cash.  It’d be embarrassing if he were to lose another 3 or 4 million to this plausible Italian character, only for Fulham to be left with a Paddy Kenny or a David Norris on our hands.”

The footballer central to the matter is philosophical about his newly-reduced status. “Business is business,” said Ross McCormack, 29.  “These deals get done, and I go where the wages are. I’ve already been given a Fulham FC badge to kiss and, while it feels a little strange, I can get used to it.  I can get used to anything if the price is right.”

Asked about his prospects at Craven Cottage, McCormack was bullish.  “I can achieve every bit as much here as I could at Leeds, possibly more.  At Leeds there was a statue of Billy Bremner outside the ground.  I was never going to get an honour like that, not there.  But here, the local hero is a player I’ve never heard of – so look out Michael Jackson, Rossco’s aiming to have his statue up there beside you before too long!”

Shahid Khan has more money than sense.