Massimo Cellino used the unveiling of David Hockaday as Leeds United’s new head coach to effectively rule out the sale of club captain Ross McCormack, saying the retention of the striker was a “matter of principle, not money.”
United’s Italian owner said he would only sanction the departure of McCormack - the subject of intense transfer speculation in the past fortnight - if the Scotland international was approached by “Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid.”
“He’s a talented player so I couldn’t tell him no, stay at Leeds,” Cellino said. “If he gets an offer from a big team then we should give him the chance to go. But the teams who’ve asked for McCormack are from the Championship.
“Why should I sell McCormack? We are not desperate to sell him so why should we? If I needed money, I would tell you frankly - I need money, I have to sell, I’m not ashamed. McCormack is a matter of principle, not money. He’s a beautiful player and he’s staying at Leeds.”
Fulham are understood to have bid £5m for McCormack last week, an offer which fell short of United’s valuation, and Newcastle United also expressed an interest in him earlier this month.
McCormack, who scored 29 times for United last season, has a contract running to 2017 and Cellino said: “I’ll make him keep his word with the fans. He’s signed a contract and he wants to stay, he said that publicly. He says he loves Leeds.
“McCormack is a Leo, like my star sign - a leader and a winner who knows the responsibilities. We expect from him the same work next season but not same manner of goals.
“He played for Leeds with his heart last year, that’s what we want from him. We don’t want him to carry the weight of his team on his shoulders. He played for three players last season.”