Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani has criticised the “commitment, passion and spirit” of the club’s players after his first full season at Elland Road failed to produce a sustained play-off bid.
In an open challenge to United’s squad, Radrizzani condemned their effort in the second of the Championship term and vented particular frustration over a recent 3-0 defeat to Middlesbrough which he described as “the bottom of the season.”
Leeds’ early promise, which saw them top the Championship in September, dissipated rapidly after Christmas, leading to the sacking of former head coach Thomas Christiansen and dragging the club down into a mid-table position.
United have earned one win from their last 14 games and new boss Paul Heckingbottom, who arrived from Barnsley on an 18-month deal on February 6, has a solitary win to his name after seven games in charge.
Radrizzani bought full control of Leeds nine months ago and made a promising first impression, buying back United’s Elland Road stadium 13 years after it was first sold, but he has come in for criticism over the club’s results and a recruitment policy led by director of football Victor Orta.
But speaking to TalkSport, the Italian aimed pointed comments at United’s first-team players, many of whom were handed new contracts in the first half of the season.
Radrizzani said: “The team was put together in the summer and did quite well until the end of December. I was pleased with the results but unfortunately in January we ruined everything.
“We need to learn from our mistakes, firstly myself. I’m the first person responsible for this situation, and my management. The players also have a big part in these results.
“We gave them everything possible to focus on the football. As a club we support them with everything, we gave them long-term contracts, we support them going to a mid-season camp in Spain, we did everything they wanted but we didn’t get back their commitment, their passion, the spirit, particularly in the most important game we played very poorly against Middlesbrough away.
“For me it was the bottom of the season because there was no commitment, no passion, no spirit. I don’t want players in my team and representing Leeds United with this behaviour. I hope they can learn and be with me next year, playing better with more commitment.”
A 2-2 draw at Reading on Saturday dropped Leeds 11 points behind the top six with only nine games of the season to go.
Radrizzani set qualification for the play-offs as his target in August but the club have fallen a long way short of that goal.
“This year it’s impossible to think about promotion,” Radrizzani said. “We need to play the next (nine) games, showing the spirit and passion that we’re missing and show the players that we need their respect.
“I’m happy to meet the players face-to-face and tell them the same because they need to know what the club think about the season.”