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Massimo Cellino’s Leeds mad house! The Italian owner once rejected chance to sign Virgil van Dijk


Graham Bean was the FA’s ‘sleazebuster’ but in addition labored with a lot of golf equipment in English soccer, most memorably at Leeds the place he labored carefully with the membership’s controversial former proprietor… 

Massimo Cellino’s repute preceded him when he purchased Leeds United. The controversial Italian businessman was referred to as the ‘Manager Eater’ in his homeland after going by extra bosses in his 22 years at Cagliari than he’d had pepperoni pizzas, and it felt like he revelled within the notoriety.

I discovered myself parachuted into the attention of the storm inside Elland Street. Cellino had no expertise of the English sport and had already sacked the CEO and head of soccer administration inside weeks of seizing management of the membership. In impact, the membership was rudderless.

Employees morale was the bottom I’d ever seen throughout my profession. They didn’t like Cellino — and definitely didn’t belief him. They feared the results of getting on the improper facet of him. I as soon as instructed he make investments £50,000 into the employees wages funds to present all of them a pay rise, seeing as they hadn’t had one in years, it might have given them a raise and made them extra receptive to what he was doing within the membership. Cellino shot me down in his ordinary tantrum method, questioning why he ought to give them more money.

Massimo Cellino's capricious nature made working at Leeds a bizarre experience

Massimo Cellino’s capricious nature made working at Leeds a weird expertise

Having bluntly refused my request he then requested about sourcing an Audi R8 sports activities automotive for his son’s birthday, as I had already secured a Mini for a similar son some weeks earlier. He instructed me he was prepared to pay as much as £80,000! He wouldn’t share £50,000 between all those that labored so laborious for him on the membership, however would blow £80k on an arrogance venture for his spoiled and indulged son. It summed him up completely.

My first assembly with Cellino had been an eye-opener. The very first thing he did was take the p*** out of my weight, with a string of insulting feedback. This went down like a lead balloon nevertheless it was clear he was a really charismatic man with a brazen sense of humour. Because the weeks and months glided by it turned blindingly apparent he was liable to severe temper swings and would steadily lose his mood, generally over probably the most trivial of issues. Then, nearly instantly, he may flip the allure on once more. It was like flicking a swap, so me and the opposite members of employees turned very cautious of his irrational facet.

Working at Leeds was probably the most weird experiences of my skilled profession. At instances it genuinely felt like I used to be working inside a madhouse and I severely questioned persevering with to work for him, attributable to his nasty mood tantrums, which have been like coping with a spoiled baby. It was draining and nerve-racking.

Nevertheless, I rapidly discovered the one method to cope with him was to face as much as him and provides pretty much as good as you bought. He as soon as blamed me for a pricey mistake concerning a mortgage deal for Souleymane Doukara from Catania. He was ranting and raving however I’d not had any involvement in it. I snapped — it was one rant too many from him — and launched myself throughout the desk with my finger pointing near his face, shouting “Don’t you ever f****** blame me for something that’s nothing to do with me. You f***** this up and nobody else.” Cellino s*** himself, rapidly backed down and ended up blaming another person!

The Italian clashed with Graham Bean over the signing of Souleymane Doukara

The Italian clashed with Graham Bean over the signing of Souleymane Doukara

As a result of his risky mood, it was troublesome to separate when he was merely expressing himself together with his passionate Italian persona and mannerisms and when he was really dropping his mood. However as time went on it was a lot simpler to tell apart between the 2.

I used to be the one particular person ready to face as much as him, as a result of everybody else on the membership lived in concern of him. His mood was such that he would grow to be irrational at instances, elevating his voice to the purpose of not having the ability to decipher what he was saying, constructing himself up into such a frenzy he would begin frothing on the mouth.

He can be impolite to many individuals with out realising it, utilizing offensive language, together with his commonest phrases being “mother******” and “****head.” At any time when I raised points with him concerning the FA, his normal response was “F*** the Federation”, a sentiment I tended to agree with more often than not!

One of many largest issues working for Cellino was that he didn’t appear to do mornings. He hardly ever turned up at Elland Street earlier than lunchtime. This meant you have been restricted in what you may really get executed, as a result of his micromanagement was so intense that nobody on the membership dare do something which could have triggered an outburst from him.

Goalkeeper Paddy Kenny was axed due to Cellino's superstitions around the number 17

Goalkeeper Paddy Kenny was axed attributable to Cellino’s superstitions across the quantity 17

He additionally had some extraordinary superstitions, like eliminating the quantity 17 from the membership and never utilizing the color purple. In the future he even instructed me to verify I acquired high-earning goalkeeper Paddy Kenny out of the membership as a result of he was born on the seventeenth and that he simply couldn’t danger him being at Leeds.

After I organized the supply of the Mini for his son, Cellino refused to permit it to be delivered on a Friday, as a result of “Friday was a bad luck day for delivering cars”. Like I stated, a madhouse.

A month after I joined Leeds, Cellino surprised membership supporters by appointing the comparatively unknown Dave Hockaday as the brand new first-team coach. Hockaday’s managerial expertise amounted to being a youth coach at Watford and Southampton, then 4 years of being supervisor of Forest Inexperienced Rovers after they have been within the Nationwide League. From his first day it was apparent to me it might all finish in tears.

I acquired on effectively with Dave and he was a very nice bloke, as was his assistant Junior Lewis, however the actuality was they have been each out of their depth at Leeds. Dave did, nevertheless, determine two excellent gamers that may have reworked the membership.

Cellino ignored a chance to sign Virgil van Dijk when the Dutchman was at Celtic

Cellino ignored an opportunity to signal Virgil van Dijk when the Dutchman was at Celtic

One was a sure Virgil van Dijk, then at Celtic. Sadly Cellino ignored him and signed Giuseppe Bellusci on mortgage from Italian Serie B facet Catania. Often called “The Warrior” in his native Italy due to the way in which he performed, Bellusci thrived on an undeserved hard-man repute. He made his debut in a 4-1 defeat to Watford and issues didn’t enhance a lot from there — he wasn’t appreciated by lots of his teammates or the membership employees.

The opposite goal Dave instructed was Andre Grey however as a substitute, Cellino sanctioned the signing of Mirco Antenucci from Ternana, who lasted simply two seasons. Hockaday had recognized two gamers that, had Cellino chosen to signal, would have seen Leeds make an enormous revenue sooner or later and will even have resulted in promotion.

I knew Hockaday wouldn’t final very lengthy — and I used to be right. After simply 70 days he and Lewis have been sacked. Cellino rang me and all he stated was, “Sack Hockaday”.

I replied that he ought to do the respectable factor and communicate to Dave himself however Cellino “didn’t like confrontation” so refused to do it.

Most traditional membership house owners would have executed the wise factor and lined up a substitute supervisor earlier than sacking their present one however Cellino was removed from regular. In impact, he was taking part in an actual life sport of Soccer Supervisor.

Then Real Madrid assistant Paul Clement was Cellino's first choice to replace Dave Hockaday

Then Actual Madrid assistant Paul Clement was Cellino’s first selection to exchange Dave Hockaday

That very same night I used to be summoned to his workplace the place he requested me who I believed we should always appoint. I made it clear I used to be having no enter and so Cellino determined there after which that he wished Steve Clarke as the subsequent boss. Clarke wasn’t so instantly, Cellino resorted to Plan B and determined he wished Paul Clement, who was assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Actual Madrid. Cellino made the decision to Ancelotti and wished to know what Clement’s wage was. When Ancelotti instructed him it was over a million euros a yr, talks ended in a short time!

Cellino then reverted to Plan C, which was to place academy supervisor Neil Redfearn in non permanent cost whereas he sourced a everlasting boss.

Remarkably, given the expertise introduced by at Leeds similar to Lewis Prepare dinner, Charlie Taylor, Sam Byram, Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Alex Mowatt and Kalvin Phillips, Cellino had initially been intent on closing the academy down earlier than he was satisfied it was a viable concern. 

The Italian deemed future England star Kalvin Phillips not good enough for the Leeds first team

The Italian deemed future England star Kalvin Phillips not ok for the Leeds first workforce

Cellino had instructed Redfearn throughout one in all his spells answerable for the primary workforce to do away with future England worldwide Phillips as a result of he “wasn’t good enough”. It exhibits simply how poor Cellino’s judgment was over gamers.

With Redfearn in non permanent cost, Cellino reverted to Plan D which was Gary Megson. I knew Gary effectively and arrange a gathering at Cellino’s house in Leeds metropolis centre the next day. Nevertheless, about an hour earlier than the assembly, Cellino rang to say he’d modified his thoughts and didn’t need Gary in spite of everything, so it was all cancelled. It was one other instance of how farcical issues have been changing into.

Issues then went very quiet earlier than a little bit recognized Serbian appeared on the scene referred to as Darko Milanic. I’d by no means heard of him and neither had most Leeds followers. After listening to his first press convention, I knew he wasn’t going to final lengthy — the one shock was he lasted a month.


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