Andrea Radrizzani gave an interview with Phil Hay of the Yorkshire Evening Post in which he discussed many things going on at Leeds United. He first discussed the sacking of Thomas Christiansen, and called the hiring of TC a “mistake.”
The second part of the interview focused on the players, the wage budget, and Director of Football Victor Orta. He didn’t hold back on his disappointment with the performance of the club, and even went so far as to almost call out the players for the dire results, saying:
The red cards are something we are analysing in terms of taking disciplinary sanctions to the players. Even more we will be stronger. The players need to control themselves and they need to have respect for this club, the jersey, the fans and their team-mates. The club gave everything to them in terms of new contracts, comfort, support, facilities. We did everything to make them feel that they are in a big club and now they need to step up.
But my personal view is that some of this situation is linked to frustration with results. Something was wrong inside the team. Technically, mentally, something was wrong
While he does qualify the statement saying that the players need to “step up” a little bit by talking about something being wrong inside the team, it’s still pretty strong language telling the players to “step up” after noting the big contracts that the club has handed out. Almost the entire first team got new contracts since Radrizzani took control of the club last May. One of the biggest complaints about Massimo Cellino was the lack of investment in wages and transfers. And while Leeds have spent some of the money on transfers, the club has increased its wage bill considerably since last season, with Radrizzani saying the wage bill has increased by £7 million.
Besides the criticism of Christiansen, one of the complaints being leveled at the current set-up at Leeds is the role of the Director of Football Victor Orta Orta came to Leeds after being the head of recruitment at Middlesbrough, and rumours about his influence in the dressing room and how a “clique” of Spanish-speakers at Boro undermined the authority of the manager at the Riverside Stadium.
Radrizzani addressed those concerns, saying “There is no problem in the structure. Victor is not interfering in the management of the football side. His main activity is to focus on the football structure, including the academy, and improve it with signings.” Radrizzani also said that he was happy with the job that Orta and Angus Kinnear, the Managing Director at Leeds, were doing. The business side of the club is in as strong a position as it’s ever been since leaving the Premier League.
The Academy has been a big focus under the new leadership at the club, with Radrizzani saying last summer that the days of selling young players were over at Leeds. He said that he wanted to see a “four or six” youth players next season in the squad, as the wages and transfer fees that established Championship players command are too expensive for a even a club like Leeds to afford. He’s mentioned before that the parachute payments have created an unbalanced playing field in regards to the Championship, as teams that get the payments are able to drive up domestic prices and wages, leaving other clubs in the dust and unable to comply with FFP if they want to compete for promotion.
Because of the prices in England, Radrizzani said that the club were forced to recruit overseas for talent such as Samu Saiz and Gjanni Alioski, but that in the future he wanted the club to focus on local, English talent. A number of young English players were signed in January, including Sam Dalby from Leyton Orient, Jordan Stevens from Forest Green Rovers, and Tyler Roberts from West Bromwich Albion. If Roberts is able to quickly get up to speed in the Championship, he will be a bargain, but if he doesn’t, Leeds might have to wait to challenge for promotion.
Despite putting a minimum target of the top six last summer, Radrizzani said that he doesn’t expect Heckingbottom to reach the playoffs given the current position in the table and the recent performance of the team. The club is missing a number of key players through injury and suspension, and it might take a few matches for Heckingbottom to make the changes he wants to implement. And there will be no learning curve for the new boss, as a Yorkshire derby against Sheffield United waits on Saturday.
While it might not be playoffs or bust for Radrizzani, after last season’s collapse down the stretch, it would be heartwarming to see the club charge up the table in the latter months for a change. If the new “head coach” doesn’t have any better results with the current crop of players, however, it might not just be the coach’s job that will be in jeopardy. If Radrizzani decides that the recruitment isn’t up to snuff, it doesn’t appear that he is afraid to pull the trigger. Radrizzani’s happy with Orta now, but that may change in the future.
At least supporting Leeds isn’t boring, right?