Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino claims he is ready to sell the club - despite the likelihood of his 223-day Football League ban being overturned.
Speaking to The Times, a despondent Cellino said he had “no happiness anymore” and described himself as “tired, hurt and lonely”, saying: “I've had enough. It's better to walk out.”
Cellino, who bought a majority share in Leeds in 2014, has talked about selling his shares at various stages of a turbulent reign as owner but his latest comments come less than 24 hours after the Football League announced that his pending 223-day ban was set to be withdrawn.
The governing body imposed the suspension last October following Cellino’s conviction in a tax case in Italy.
That conviction was quashed on appeal on Monday, however, and League said last night that it would cancel his ban once it received written confirmation of the verdict from Italy’s Court of Appeal.
That development appeared to strengthen Cellino’s authority at Elland Road but the 59-year-old Italian reacted by telling The Times: “I've had enough. It's better to walk out, not because I'm dishonest but because I'm tired and hurt and lonely.
'Why did they disqualify me when they knew the truth? I don't want to complain because I'm a foreigner but I'm lost. I have no happiness any more and don't know if I have the enthusiasm for the next season.
“I've never been so confused. I'm nearly 60 and would never have expected that from Leeds. I'm ashamed to say it. If someone wants to buy the club I will sell it. If somebody doesn't come in I have no choice but to run it.”
Cellino previously spoke about selling Leeds shortly after his Football League ban was first announced last October. He offered to make a deal with supporters group Leeds Fans United but reneged on that proposal within days, accusing LFU of telling “fairytales”.
Local business Steve Parkin, whose firm Clipper Logistics recently agreed to sponsor Elland Road’s East Stand, was heavily linked with a buy-out before Christmas but Parkin has not purchased any shares.
Cellino and his UK firm Eleonora Sport remain as majority shareholders with a stake in excess of 80 per cent. Former United owner Gulf Finance House controls the rest of the equity.
Cellino’s 223-day disqualification has been pending since October after he appealed against the punishment to both the Football League and the Football Association’s arbitration department.
The ban was imposed following a ruling in Italy which found him guilty of evading tax on a Range Rover imported by Cellino from the USA. To date he has not served a single day of it.
The Football League’s board discussed his acquittal at a meeting yesterday and in a statement it said: “The board determined that Mr Cellino’s disqualification - under the Owners and Directors Test - will no longer apply if the written judgement of the court, which the League is yet to see, confirms that Mr Cellino has been acquitted of this offence following recent changes to Italian law which have decriminalised certain offences with retrospective effect.”
Cellino’s latest claims of plans to sell United come less than a month after the club announced season ticket prices which included a partial refund to supporters if they fail to make the Championship play-offs next season.
Leeds, meanwhile, have today announced a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with online casino firm 32Red.
The club were without a shirt sponsor this season owing to a dispute with former backers Enterprise Insurance. Enterprise has taken legal action against United over alleged breach of contract and is claiming a sum in excess of £1million. That case will be heard in Manchester in September.
32Red has already established itself as sponsor of Swansea City and Aston Villa and Scottish club Rangers.