Italian Andrea Radrizzani revives English soccer club Leeds

Sports | 18 Jul 2020 2:14 pm

A financial implosion led to English cub Leeds United being relegated from the Premier League in 2004, with debts rising to more than £100 million (now US$125 million) and fears the club could go out of business.
Leeds were forced to sell all its players and other assets, including the stadium academy, and stumbled from crisis to crisis under a succession of owners.
Leeds went into administration in 2007 under Ken Bates' ownership, which led to the team being relegated to the third tier where it spent three seasons. Leeds fared little better under the next set of owners, GFH Capital, before the arrival of controversial Italian businessman Massimo Cellino.
During Cellino's chaotic three-year ownership Leeds had seven different managers, but current owner Andrea Radrizzani, also Italian, bought a 50 percent stake in Leeds in January 2017 to signal the dawning of a new era.
Radrizzani purchased the remaining 50 percent from Cellino the following May.
The 49ers Enterprises investment affiliate of the San Francisco NFL team also took a minority ownership stake in 2018.
Leeds made a bold statement of intent by appointing Bielsa in the summer of 2018.
Marcelo Bielsa spent seven years in charge of Argentina, guiding it to Olympic gold in 2004 and the runner-up spot in the Copa America the same year.
He also guided Chile to the 2010 World Cup, while Athletic Bilbao reached the Europa League final and Copa del Rey final under him in 2012.
After spells at Marseille, Lazio and Lille, Bielsa was competing in the second-tier at Leeds. He proved an instant hit, transforming the same squad he inherited into genuine promotion challengers in his first season.
Last season, Leeds had to remind Bielsa of the need to demonstrate “integrity and honesty'' after apologizing to League Championship rival Derby for spying on its training ground.
“At an age when I'm trying to develop, he's the perfect manager to have,'' midfielder Kalvin Phillips told the BBC. “The Premier League is the best league in the world and, after 16 years, we're back in there.''
West Brom remains a point ahead of Brentford, which can move into the second automatic promotion place with a win at Stoke on Saturday in its penultimate game. -AP


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