Andrea Radrizzani today revealed that his takeover of Leeds United has cost him “in the region of £100m”, he also was unequivocal that the club has to target the play-offs this season.
In an interview with BBC Sport Radrizzani spoke about what he expects this season following his buyout of Massimo Cellino’s remaining 50% stake.
Leeds had a very poor end to the season, getting only one win and three draws from their last eight games, throwing away what had looked like a certain play-off spot.
Following that disappointment he was asked whether the play-offs were the minimum target for the season ahead. Radrizzani replied: “Definitely yes. It’s a natural goal. Then I’m happy to welcome a good surprise and a better year than what I expect, we need to work hard but at the end, our target is the play-offs.
“This year I think we need to compete at the top of the league and be in the top six. We invested in the club to improve the quality. Last year we had a good season, many young players but we failed in the beginning of the season and at the end of the season.
“During the season we had good games and showed good character, if we keep up that fighting spirit and we increase the quality we don’t need to worry and we can be confident that we can compete at the top.”
He was also asked whether this target put pressure on the club, Radrizzani said: “For me pressure is positive. The players need to play with joy but they also know they need to deliver results because we have massive support from the fans but we also need time because we are building a project, Rome was not built in a day. If we cannot make it this year, we work harder to make it next year.”
Radrizzani was asked when he would expect the club to achieve promotion by, he was non-comittal in his response: “It is a project, this year we build a good foundation. We bought back Elland Road, we are working to improve the stadium, the layout, the branding. We are working to improve the facilities at Thorp Arch, as well as signing new staff and new players.
“This is a project that hopefully will start again in the Premier League where I think we belong but we need to focus on every single step of the process and be ready for when these will happen.”
The Italian businessman was effusive in his praise for the new manager Thomas Christiansen, who was hired after the resignation of former manager Garry Monk: “I'm very confident in him otherwise I wouldn't have hired him. We went through a lot of interviews and we found Thomas as a young, emerging coach who did very well in the last two years.
"He had good experience as a player, he played for Barcelona and worked with Johan Cruyff. He has a good background and he knows his football. We have similar ideas about playing offensive and trying to win games. That’s what convinced me to bring him on board and I’ll be very supportive of him this year. I’m sure we can achieve a good result with him.”
Radrizzani also talked in a bit of detail about the changes he has made since he took over and what he has had to invest to achieve it.
“I’ve already committed with a big investment in the region of £100m. I’m here for good and I want to bring this club back to where they deserve to be.
“It was a very hard time this summer, two months of hard work. I got full control only on May 25th so it’s been 60 days of hard work for myself, the management, the team, everyone, but I think we are ready to start.”
A large part of the investment was buying back Elland Road 13 years after it was sold to Jacob Adler for around £8m.
The cost of the buy-back of Elland Road is estimated to be around £20m on top of the purchase of Leeds United itself which Radrizzani himself indicated was over £45m. However, buying the stadium isn’t the end of the expense.
Radrizzani stated: “We are now investing a little bit to refresh the stadium and to increase the quality of the experience for the fans and to offer more services.
“I am very happy with the way the project started,” said Radrizzani. “We have had a good response from the city, the city council, the supporters, and the staff. I see a lot of enthusiasm and that gives me a lot of charge to start the season in the best way.”
This enthusiasm has been shown by the club’s very strong season ticket sales, something which the owner said he “wasn’t surprised by”.
“I knew I was buying a club with a huge supporter base. I receive a lot of messages thanking me for what we have done in two months. They say they have a good feeling back about supporting Leeds United.
“Fans that were away from the stadium are coming back, this is exactly what I wanted to see. I am very happy and energised by that.
“I think there was a gap between the club and the community, one of the first objectives was to build a bridge with them and have better communication. This has a mutual benefit. We cannot live without the support of the city and our fans, and the city needs Leeds United energised and back in the Premier League in the coming years.”
Radrizzani was asked about the challenges of going up against teams with large parachute payments and he was very clear in his view: “It is unfair, in two years time we will have nine clubs with a £100m budget against 15 clubs with much less budget. At a certain point it should be regulated in a way that can close the gap.
“At the same time, I am focused on my club. Football is much more than money, it has been shown over the last few years by Huddersfield getting promoted and Leicester winning the league.
“Budget and money are important, but the project, the conviction, and the quality of player we have, we can make it with a lower budget and we will work hard for that.”
Radrizzani has invested in the playing staff despite the financial challenges. He said: “This year we invested, not as much as the top clubs, but a level behind them. In the future we need to be careful because the club itself, in the championship, is a loss making business.
“We do not have enough income, TV rights is very little, hopefully when there is a new bid we will have better income in the future, but by then I hope we aren’t in this league.
“The system in the EFL needs a revision, to see how it can be sustainable because at the moment it’s not.”
He has also focused some investment on making sure the pipeline of young players continues at Leeds: “This summer we have signed 9 players for the 1st team, and we have signed probably 12 between u18s and u23s. It is very important we refresh our youth academy.
“Also, I will look to invest more in our scouting system and within the UK football environment. Players from lower division clubs and more players from the Yorkshire area. As a club we have a duty to improve the access for young people to our facilities, we are working with the city council on this.”
The honesty in Radrizzani’s appoach makes a welcome change for Leeds fans and he has been received well because of it. What do you think of what he had to say? Let us know in the comments or @ThruItAllLUFC on twitter.
For more Leeds United discussion you can follow @mightywhitespod and listen to the lastest podcast at http://mightywhitespodcast.com/podcast/mighty-whites-podcast-episode-3-30-7-2017/
The full interview with Andrea Radrizzani is available here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05bcg1r