Italian club Brescia have taken the unusual step of distancing themselves from rumours linking Leeds United co-owner Massimo Cellino with a takeover of the Serie B side.
In a statement published on their official website, Brescia said they had received “no contact, direct or indirect” with Cellino after sustained speculation about his plans to quit Elland Road and return to the Italian leagues.
The company has not been sold and is not at this moment in negotiations. In particular there is no contact, direct or indirect, with Massimo Cellino.Italian Serie B strugglers, Brescia
Cellino sold 50 per cent of Leeds to businessman Andrea Radrizzani last month, relinquishing half of a shareholding he acquired in full from former owner Gulf Finance House in September, and the deal included a clause which could see Radrizzani claim 100 per cent control at the end of this season.
Cellino, who is currently fighting to avoid a year-long ban from the Football Association, has been linked at various stages over the past six months with a move to buy into Brescia, a one-time Serie A team who are currently in the bottom half of Italy’s second tier.
But Brescia responded to those claims today by saying: “In relation to persistent news about the impending sale of the company, Giuseppe Pirola, the person in charge of receiving and evaluating any expressions of interest, declares that the company has not been sold and is not at this moment in negotiations. In particular there is no contact, direct or indirect, with Massimo Cellino.”
Cellino appeared at a press conference alongside Radrizzani in the days after the pair completed their investment deal, a rare public appearance by the 60-year-old this season.
The former Cagliari owner, who first took charge of Leeds by purchasing a 75 per cent stake from GFH in 2014, gave no acknowledgement of any immediate plan to leave Elland Road but did hint that Radrizzani would increase his control over time. “He’s 20 years (younger) than me,” Cellino said. “That’s important because I’m getting a little bit old. For us he gives a longer future than you have with me.”
Radrizzani, however, side-stepped talk of him buying Cellino out, saying: “In the summer I will tell you. In the summer we’ll talk about that because me and Massimo don’t want to take attention away from what the players are doing and the manager is doing. We need to focus on the games.”
Cellino’s freedom to invest in an Italian club could potentially be hindered by the FA’s attempt to suspend him from football over an illegal payment authorised by the Italian during the sale of striker Ross McCormack from Leeds to Fulham in July of 2014.
Cellino was originally hit with an 18-month ban and a £250,000 fine, penalties which were reduced to 12 months and £100,000 on appeal.
The charge against him was upheld, however, and Cellino is now fighting to overturn it through the FA’s rule K arbitration system, a process which is likely to take several months.
The governing body agreed to stay his suspension pending the outcome of arbitration less than 48 hours before Cellino’s ban was due to begin on February 18.