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


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.

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

  1. Steve trebert

    Entertaining and spot on. Well written Rob


  2. Hi rob, onward and upward ,2 new players in and more to come,the place is starting to buzz, ,,,MOT


  3. 100% in agreement!


  4. Hear hear well said that man MOT


  5. mrbigwheels

    Very worthy notes… You must be on a high, I’ve spotted a spelling mistake…


  6. We will miss RM until Matt Smith starts scoring goals then it will be Ross who!!.It will be a big season for Mr Smith as our Italian players will take time to get used to the pace and toughness of our championship, they will also have to get used to the pressure of playing for Leeds United still the biggest club outside of the premiership, it will be a roller-coaster season for all of us MOT


  7. Rob

    your comments about RMs ” this isn’t the club I fell in love with” are spot on

    I doubt a Prem club would pay 11 million for a championship striker unproven in the PREM, Surely its easier for them to get a ready made international in a top division for that money and less risk ??? I think RM wanted out since January…I think he and the club tried to massage the truth of that mad final transfer day in JAN so that RM wasn’t boo’d every time he stepped out on the pitch. I also remember Cellino dropping a clanger in that radio interview by saying RM wanted to leave…..

    As you say his twitter comments have been negative for some time. His comments to the press later about wanting to stay IF we showed ambition can also be seen as setting up the moral high ground and anexcuse for an exit.

    Personally my gut feeling is we will be a far stronger unit next season and certainly more entertaining.

    I do think Leeds fans behave very similarly to England fans though……..we start out with the lowest of the low expectations and then if things start to go in the right direction we get carried away before finally getting a dose of reality and then for us its the end of the world and its time to play the blues………..
    Translated – Cellino has rightly said this year will be the transitional year……. YES the transition that should have occurred in 2013 but didn’t.

    If we get play offs I will be happy, that’s got to be the aim.


  8. Gary Mears

    Yes Rob, young and hungry, and talented. Think back to last season, especially after Christmas, no heart, no fight and crap football week after week. I’ve no problem with McCormack going, 11 million for fuck sake, absolutely crazy money for a very good Championship player, thank you very much Fulham😊. Salerno in, and l agree, probably the most important signing we will make all season. Roll on the new season, it really feels that things are on the up for the first time in years😊


  9. Yes I’m actually excited as well, two already signed up and there’s hope of another 2 to 3 over the next week or so. There is also going to be a replacement for McCormack, so maybe 2 strikers will be coming to add to Poleon, Smith and Hunt. I’m looking forward which is why I’m so glad McCormack has gone, no player is bigger than this club, so good riddance to him and for once there is a lot of positivity around the place, something we haven’t had since the O’Leary days.


    • I’m really sorry but I can’t and never will understand why us leeds fans respect o’leary for god sake he is part of the reason we are in this god for saken mess I’d take 10 seasons in the PL than 1 champions league I’m sorry but he and the rest that put us in this nightmare don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as LUFC


      • I’m right with you. O’Leary was a bullshit merchant who got lucky off the back of Wilko’s ten year plan. It wasn’t broke, but he tried to fix it, against all reason and common sense. Fowler, Johnson and Kidd. These were major cock-ups. Around the time of the 5-2 Cup win at City, we had the look of up and coming Champions – then he started tinkering. I never want to see him back at Leeds – busted flush.


      • Off the back of both wilko and George graham imo rob.

        he inherited a great team from graham, including radebe who was a truly wonderful team captain (yeah wilko signed him, but it was graham who pushed him forwards)

        Also I feel Eddie gray had a lot to do with olearys early success, the team just wasn’t as good when he got in kidd as his assistant.

        Oleary has to take some blame for the financial mess too, he was forever banging on about needing a big squad, that’s part of the reason ridsdale was paying silly money for the likes of Seth Johnson and Michael duberry.


      • Couldn’t agree more. I was gutted when Graham left, I felt he had an unfair press while he was with us. People talk about dour, defensive and all that – but the 1997/98 season under George was wonderful, we scored freely, Jimmy was blazing away and happy, we were the Comeback Kings too. We really missed our way when he left, we failed to get O’Neill – and then handed it all over to the King of Blarney.


  10. As is often the case sir, a very fine assessment of the drama filled experience it is, to be a supporter of our fine club.
    Think you’ve a flare for this writing malarkey.
    Excellent piece & I share your optimism. . .


  11. Betyween the Lines

    Shame we didn’t have Cellino & Salerno on board when we gave away Snodgrass, Howson, Gradel, Schmeichel and many of the other players that were given away for peanuts


  12. Cellinio has put a marker down for any dissenters within the playing squad, as O’Leary did when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink just wanted more money & was shown the door. The club did not sink without him! The money received for McCormack was phenomenal & properly reinvested in the right areas, on young hungry players with ambition & desire, will make for a much stronger LUFC. Ross who?


  13. This isn’t even remotely Leeds United any more, and Ross had precious little choice. That photo of him with Whackaday says it all. I can’t believe you’re still a Cellino apologist, Rob, or that anyone is, but that’s life, I suppose. You’ll all change your minds soon enough, and then Smith will save us from relegation, Whackaday will be sacked and you’ll all be appeased and start going on about how great things are again. What’s ahead is much worse than the Bates years. Just remember I, and various others who’ve been fans since that 60s, saw it all coming and told you so.


    • Bloody killjoy 😉


    • Some things he’s done are good
      getting rid of the dead wood
      holding out for 11 million for Ross
      paying off that tax bill left by gfh

      some things he’s done are bad
      appointing hockaday instead of mcallister
      sacking the likes of reaney
      been mean to Brian while he was at his mothers deathbed

      jury is still out for me. But he ain’t no bates, bates would have bitten fulhams hand off at 4 million, put half in his back pocket and blown the rest on pointless executive boxes. Probably have done some sort if administration fiddle over the tax bill and plunged us into league 1 too.


  14. I have a ‘feeling’ that Noel Hunt may well shine this season, I don’t think we saw anything like his best……I will now turn off my laptop and hide!!


  15. David Smith

    Rob – agree with your positive assessment re McCormack – however what sticks in the craw (apart from Germany 7 up as we speak), is the 15% sell on clause that Cardiff will get. Going forward Cellino will be a lot more streetwise in his player negotiations I’m sure. Ah good at least Brazil have just scored!


    • Cold comfort I suspect.


    • I must be weird, I want Germany to win it now.

      Don’t like the dirty way the Argentine play. Holland are being bigged up by the bbc and itv, like were supposed to support them now England are out because they have the manures best player and new manager (gollum 2)


  16. Alf Tupper

    Rousing words Rob and nice to feel an optimistic breeze around ER these days. It may all go wrong yet but hey, bring it on. Can’t be any worse than what went before can it? MOT


  17. The most telling thing for me about the McCormack departure is that NO Premiership club was prepared to chase him. The more I think about what Fulham have paid the more unbelievable it becomes!


  18. also we have a couple of good young players to come through, i know i was on the scouting staff for a short while, one or two will surprise you, but we do need an out and out poacher they make the difference, would like to see poleon given a run on the wing too


    • I’ve seen a few making that Poleon out wide call. Must be something in it if the scouts are at it too. I’d like to see him gain some more upper body strength as Raheem Sterling has done to such deadly effect, and start barging past people more regularly.


  19. Pattaya White

    Cant believe that guy John B , surely we needed a change in direction and now we have it . I have also supported the team from the 60’s and I remember the negative vibes when Wilko was appointed , hoof ball , boring , taking us back 20 years were some of the comments and we all know how that turned out . That was even before the social media like we have now .
    I say bring on the new leaner meaner Leeds . onwards and upwards . Great article as usual Rob , even my mates that are not educated enough to support Leeds like to read them lol MOT


  20. HTFC have laid foundations for years to come from the ridiculous fee received for JR. Wisely invested there is only one winner in the RMc sale and it aint Fulham. Well two really cos he’ll be pissing himself counting his cash every week. Overated and overhyped, but theres always some mug out there with too much money burning a whole in their pocket. Fulham to become the new Blackburn next season


  21. Great article. Over a million off the wage bill too! We can afford a few promising youngsters and still be ahead.
    When I was watching us getting hammered by Sheff Wed, watching Brazil brought it all back, I was desperate for a Max Cellino to go into the dressing room and read the riot act to the bunch of arrogant under achievers. He will not make excuses, he expects the players to do their job so I’m looking forward to next season. These young Italians will be desperate to impress a scout from a Premiership club, that is if we aren’t challenging 🙂


  22. Mike Durham

    Brilliant article as ever Rob and just a word on your comments about O’Leary ; He is viewed within the football community as a leper for hiding behind the amiable facade and blaming Ridsdale at every opportunity. It is no coincidence that the only job he has held in English football since us was at American-owned Aston Villa! I know for a fact that he has asked for the Newcastle job at least twice and they wet themselves laughing!!


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