The daily conversation amongst Leeds United fans is now owner Andrea Radrizzani. A man who could do no wrong just 6 months ago is now in the focus for taking us backwards on the pitch, the season all but over in March, yet again. The likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham are facing uphill battles with their finances, so here I look at the line and how not to cross it, putting a club at risk in this financially driven age of football.
Andrea Radrizzani sat with Massimo Cellino from January onwards last season and saw as we struggled and ultimately failed to get over the line. He then bought the club for himself and has made some big strides off the pitch. To many the repurchase of Elland Road was a watershed moment, I know personally I was delighted that we finally had an owner who put the money down so Elland Road was once again in the hands of Leeds United. If, at the time he had said this would perhaps set us a back a season we would have been understanding, but he didn’t, he urged new head-coach Thomas Christiansen to do what British coaches couldn’t, and win in style, reaching our minimum target of the play-offs. During the summer Charlie Taylor left, we had no control over this and Kyle Bartley didn’t want to come back, a similar situation and two key players gone. The sale of Chris Wood all but covered the purchase of Elland Road and with the Kiwi striker refusing to play we had little choice, but as we’ve seen with other clubs sometimes you dig your heels in for the good of the club. These players weren’t replaced, and add Rob Green to the mix and it’s easy to see where our on-field issues currently lie.
So where do you go with the money that comes in for a player? Do you just try to replace him or do you look at the £15 million and really have a go at getting out of the league? We did neither. we bought Jay-Roy Grot and Pawel Cibicki with the money in August, and loaned in Pierre-Michel Lasogga. The less said about the first two the better, Lasogga has been a hit but he certainly didn’t fill the void left by 30 goal man Chris Wood, in fact he’s 20 off that total as we stand. The wage structure is currently a talking point because from what we know the top wage at the club is around £15k per-week, something that other clubs in this division double…and some. You can attract players of top quality with this structure but you have to be very picky, Adam Forshaw and Samu Saiz are the good examples, the bad examples are most of the signings from the summer. A few can be good squad players, the likes of Caleb Ekuban and Gjanni Alioksi but spending the money wisely is so important, and Victor Orta is a million miles off doing that so far.
On the flipside of this you look at the current situation at Sheffield Wednesday. The South Yorkshire side seemed to have it all two years ago, the Asian owner Chansiri (group) piling money in without any thought of the consequences. A list of top players at this level arrived including huge wage deals for the likes of Jordan Rhodes, Gary Hooper, Steven Fletcher, Barry Bannan, Almen Abdi, Glenn Loovens and Fernando Forrestieri and more. They all commanded big fees for this division and at the time you thought they were heading up pretty quickly, they had clearly cheated FFP with the owner putting in the money to plug the holes that were so obviously there. You also wondered that if the side somehow didn’t get up then there would be some serious consequences for the football club. Lone behold 2018, the side are sinking in the division, the owner is apparently losing interest and FFP is about to catch up with them. Players are being shipped out and not played for unknown reasons and the starting team looks like a mixture of unknown cheap foreign players and youth team prospects, the gamble has backfired and the only people who will pay for that is the fans, a quick skim through social media and you’ll see they are far from happy with their club, who would have thought when Rhodes was bought to “take them to the next level” on crazy wages for £15 million.
They aren’t the only club. Birmingham City could be looking at a transfer embargo with their FFP and overspending although the appointment of Garry Monk and his crew on long-term deals would suggest that they are happy to keep losing money for the time being, a gamble that may or may not pay off. Norwich City have had to restructure their entire club and sell most of their players to cut their losses and Queens Park Rangers have gone from one of the richest clubs in the country to relegation candidates with their wage structure. Andrea Radrizzani may well be tight with his money when looking at Leeds and in a way it’s good that we won’t be put in a position like we have in previous years however their comes a point where fans won’t accept what they are getting because they understand football better now than what they have ever done. Access to information and general knowledge is extensive and we are well aware that a wage budget of £15k as a maximum could be adjusted to suit our targets, especially if you scouted better and cut out the waste of money signings and their wages and replaced them with fewer players of better quality. We also won’t accept the theory of Radrizzani that the squad is stronger now than last season, utter nonsense and an embarrassing statement to make. I was horrified he said that via his twitter account and he needs to be more honest going forward. We set our own standard last season and we have failed miserably to meet that again this year, a huge disappointment and something that must be addressed in the summer.