After Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest sent them back to third in the Championship, and with Italian TV rights mogul having secured 50% ownership from Massimo Cellino with the option to launch a full takeover bid in the summer, there is a cause for optimism around Leeds United.
Radrizzani was alerted to the potential of the ‘sleeping giant’ by Kenny Dalglish and has immediately outlined the importance of providing the stability that has simply been non-existent throughout the Cellino era. “Sustainable growth” he called it, “I think the club has suffered too much”.
The financial implosion that followed their relegation from the Premier League in 2004 and the subsequent administration and points deductions that kicked-off a tortuous 3-year spell in League One is testament to that but the Cellino years have been close to masochism.
The disputes with the Italian courts, the numerous suspensions by the Football league, the run-ins with Sky Sports, the contempt shown to fans by the introduction of a pie-tax, as well as the endless revolving-door manager policy, Cellino’s time in Yorkshire has been colourful if nothing else.
With the 18-month ban received for illegal-payments relating to the sale of Ross McCormack to Fulham in 2014 due to start in February, and the club heading rapidly in the right direction on the pitch under the astute guidance of Garry Monk, Leeds’ seventh manager in two years, the dark days of ‘manager eater’ Cellino are giving way to a brighter horizon.
Empathy from West Yorkshire to the sunny isle of Sicily on the Mediterranean would normally be low in supply but Leeds fans can identify with the plight of Palermo where the spectre of a nightmare Italian owner still looms despite a similar intention to loosen his grip.
Maurizio Zamparini has stated that his attempts to sell the Serie A club to Chinese or American investors has been undermined by their poor league form.
“It’s going slowly both for the way they work and for the league position Palermo are in” the 75-year-old said back in November. “Nobody would be interested in buying a Palermo in Serie B.”
Having won just twice all season and with just 4 points taken from their last 14 games and Serie B is exactly where Palermo are heading. A startling lack of stability has not helped, with the appointment of Diego Lopez making it eleven managers since the start of the 15/16 campaign.
Lopez, previously a coach with Cagliari and Bologna, becomes Palermo’s fourth manager since the start of this season in a tally that narrowly edges out sporting directors, now at 3, with Nicola Salerno, who worked under Cellino at Leeds, the latest to try his hand in the role.
Mount Etna may lie on the east of the island but the west boasts its own volcano in the form of its football club. “Every match at Palermo is like an atomic bomb” proclaimed Eugenio Corini before becoming the latest coach to depart, resigning following a 0-1 loss to Inter Milan. “Here it is always Hiroshima!”
Corini threatened a mini-revival with a 3-4 win at Genoa and a 1-1 draw with Pescara but successive defeats to Empoli, Sassuolo and Inter have done for him. “They got six points in 12 matches and since I have been here there have been significant improvements” he said, “if people don’t understand where we started it becomes difficult.”
Understanding does not appear to be on Zamparini’s vocabulary list with coaches denied any time to patch up a team that has had to contend with the big money sales of Abel Hernandez, Andrea Belotti, Paulo Dybala and Franco Vazquez over recent seasons.
The £27 million reaped from Juventus for Dybala in 2015, plus the £13 million from Sevilla for Vazquez in the summer, has not been re-invested leaving any incoming manager a squad, bar a few well-scouted talents like Ilija Nestorovski or Robin Quaison, drastically short on quality.
For a basket-case club constantly lurching through upheaval, the names of Dybala and Belotti are testament to a prolific scouting department that boasts 20-year-old Croatian goalkeeper Josip Posavec and the 19-year-old full-back Giuseppe Pezzella, who impressed when filling in for Achraf Lazaar earlier in the season, amongst its current crop.
Juventus are now in the market for Sweden international Quaison, taken from AIK Solna for just over £1 million back in 2014, and Palermo may be forced to accept the paltry €2.8 million offer for the 23-year-old playmaker, on 4 goals for the campaign, with his contract due to expire in June.
A boost would come in that any deal to sign the Swede would involve the midfielder heading back to Sicily on loan for the rest of the season, whilst it is also vital they keep hold of Sassuolo target Nestorovski, who has 7 goals and 3 assists in 21 appearances, if any bid for survival is to be made.
The attacking pair was comfortably kept at bay by Inter’s back four in last weekend’s defeat and they require more contribution from the likes of ex-West Ham midfielder Alessandro Diamanti who is yet to find the net from an attacking midfield spot.
The squad is otherwise clogged with defensive-minded players like Andrea Rispoli, Haitam Aleesami and Michel Morganella who are left to fill advanced positions. Swedish midfielder Oscar Hiljemark, one of the few attack-minded players in the squad, has just moved to Genoa.
It has left the Rosanero short of enterprise, especially at home where they have scored just 4 of their 17 goals. The Swedish market has again been trawled in the hope they can address that with the January signing of left-winger Stefan Silva, while centre-half Toni Sujic arrives on loan from VFB Stuttgart with the aim of plugging a defence that has leaked a massive 41 goals in 21 games.
“I have to train and get to know my teammates, then the Coach will decide if I play this weekend or not” said Sujic, but which coach that will be is anybody’s guess while Zamparini rules the roost.
The days of suffering under a madcap Italian owner appear to be over at Leeds but over in Palermo they are very much in full swing.