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Radrizzani shows commitment to youth

Leeds United’s new owner says the days of selling young players are over

Aston Villa v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Well this is a positive sign.

After signing up Ronaldo Vieria to a four year contract, Leeds United’s new owner, Andrea Radrizzani, has stated that he is no longer in favor of selling off the products of the team’s youth academy.

Under previous owner Massimo Cellino, Leeds had made a policy of selling young players on to other clubs, selling off players such as Sam Byram to West Ham United and Lewis Cook to AFC Bournemouth. And while those sales were supposed to help the operations of the club, many fans took the transfer policy as attempting to cash in on players, rather than hanging on to a young core that might power the team back into the Premier League.

Now with Andrea Radrizzani in charge of the club, it appears that he would rather build a team from the base and views the academy not as a revenue source, but as a way to get talent into the club.

Radrizzani was quoted in the Yorkshire Evening Post saying:

“It’s not my priority to sell young players. It’s actually the opposite. I want to keep young players.

“With Ivan Bravo joining the board we have an important executive who specialises in youth academies. He’s been working for six years in Qatar to build one of the best academies I’ve seen in my entire life at Aspire.

“They’re building the Qatar national team for the World Cup in 2022 so I’m confident that co-operation with Aspire will help Leeds to bring out more talent in the future.”

These are very encouraging words to any Leeds fan. The recent hire of a scout from La Liga power Sevilla, Dani Salas, and the hire of Victor Orta, also from Sevilla, point to a commitment to finding young players to drive the team forward towards promotion. Rather than bring in older players on cut-price deals or those “free” transfers of older players that are on high wages, the team is planning for a future. QPR bought a ton of players in to make it to the Premier League a few years ago, and were unable to sustain that success. Newcastle spent a ton of money to try and stay in the Premier League, without success, a few years back, and Sunderland spent a small fortune over the years, only to crash out again. Burnley and West Bromwich Albion are examples of teams that have built from within without spending a ton of money.

Leeds, like most Championship clubs, doesn’t have the budget to sign expensive flops, so going after youth and building a team from within is the most sensible, and ultimately most successful, strategy. While it won’t always mean immediate success, it will mean that when Leeds are promoted, they will be able to stay in the division, not merely be tourists like Blackpool or Cardiff City.

Let’s hope that Radrizzani has hired the right people to do the job. It appears that he has, so far, made good hiring decisions. A professional run club? Leeds fans may be confused by all of this, and it may be a little boring, but it’s still better than the Bates or Cellino days when you never knew what insane thing the owners were going to do next.

An investment in the academy combined with his wish to purchase Elland Road back from the its current owners shows a good amount of financial commitment from the Italian. He’s been successful in business before, and so far, everything looks good.