Leeds United: Cellino free to focus on United after Cagliari deal

Massimo Cellino.

Massimo Cellino.

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LEEDS UNITED owner Massimo Cellino has agreed a deal in principle to sell Cagliari to an American investment group – which could be completed tomorrow.

Cellino met with the US buyers, fronted by Italian businessman Luca Silvestrone, in Miami on Tuesday afternoon, with a reported 64million euros deal brokered, which is now just awaiting the final signatures from all parties.

According to the Italian press, the one condition of the deal is that the buyers receive the relevant approval from the Sardinian authorities regarding the redevelopment of Cagliari’s Sant’Elia stadium, whose capacity was only around 5,000 last season, in time for next term.

The stadium will be redesigned by architect Dan Meis, present along with Silvestrone at the meeting with Cellino.

It is thought that Cellino will receive an initial 10m euros (£8.12m) payment with a further 67m euros (£54.4m) following approval of the stadium redevelopment project, to be paid within a 90-day period.

If the deal is signed off tomorrow, it will enable Cellino to focus exclusively on matters at United after 22 years at the Cagliari helm.

Cellino said: “I am delighted. We have reached an agreement and we have signed a letter of intent that foresees their takeover of the club.

“Now they will have to fight with the (Italian) bureaucracy.

“I hope they will be allowed to do what I wasn’t given permission to do (to build a new Cagliari stadium).”

Cellino has repeatedly spoken about the grave cash situation at Elland Road – whose monthly wages for playing and general staff are due to be paid tomorrow – and his need to free himself from his obligations at Cagliari to concentrate on matters at Leeds.

United are reportedly losing around £1m a month with daily running costs over £100,000 and it remains unclear if the club’s wages will be paid on time tomorrow.

The club’s financial picture worsened last month after Sport Capital served a winding-up petition on the club over a loan of £950,000.

The offshore firm has links to David Haigh, the former Leeds manager director who remains in custody in Dubai over allegations of financial irregularities.

The petition has led to United’s bank to freeze the club’s main account, with money paid for season-tickets via debit and credit cards currently being withheld by the company which manages their card facilities.

Cellino is planning to fight the petition when it is heard before a judge in London on June 9.

Meanwhile, reports in Italy are suggesting that Cellino could bring Cagliari sporting director Nicola Salerno over to Leeds with him after relinquishing control of the Serie A outfit.

Salerno was responsible for Cagliari’s transfer activity and is now being tipped to be part of Cellino’s team at Elland Road.

Salerno said: “My future depends on what he (Cellino) decides.

“I have a personal and friendly relationship (with Cellino) and I might go to Leeds.”

Several Cagliari players, including Colombian striker Victor Ibarbo and the trio of Danilo Avelar, Andrea Tabanelli and Sebastien Eriksson have already been touted as potential signings for Leeds.

Cellino is expected to fly into the UK ahead of his scheduled meeting with players and staff, including manager Brian McDermott, on Monday.

Leeds recently wrote to their coaching staff and playing squad telling them to be present at the stadium on June 2, with McDermott due to meet Cellino face-to-face with the relationship between the pair having grown strained in the past month and the United manager’s future uncertain.

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