Leeds United boss Javi Gracia's visa outcome and backroom staff revealed ahead of Saints battle
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The Whites announced his arrival on Tuesday, just over a fortnight into their search for Jesse Marsch’s replacement, pending a work permit. Post-Brexit immigration guidelines, agreed between the Home Office and the Football Association, require any foreign manager moving to the UK from abroad to gain a governing body endorsement [GBE] in order to obtain a work permit.
Gracia’s managerial record over the past five years did not automatically qualify him for the GBE, because he did not meet the requirement of 36 months managing in what the FA consider to be a top league, or two consecutive years managing a top league side. Leeds therefore had to apply for an exceptions panel to be convened to consider his case and made the point that he was a high calibre head coach with a track record of making significant contributions to the game in top leagues.
His time at Watford, where he secured a pair of mid-table finishes and an FA Cup final place, and his season in charge at Valencia in LaLiga, presumably counted in his favour, along with his extensive experience in numerous countries.
Leeds delayed their weekly pre-match press conference by 24 hours in order to give the situation time to play out, hoping that Gracia would be granted his work permit prior to meeting the media. And at 12.30pm, fifteen minutes before the meeting with the media, the club confirmed his visa had been granted.
The Whites have also confirmed his new backroom staff. Zigor Aranalde joins as an assistant coach, having served under Gracia in spells at Watford, Valencia and Al Sadd. Mikel Antia is another new assistant coach, having played alongside Gracia at Real Sociedad. The former centre-back, also enjoyed stints at Valladolid, Elche and Braga before moving into coaching and also has experience in England with Newcastle United.
Juan Jose Solla is the final new recruit to the backroom staff, having worked alongside Gracia throughout his managerial career. Most recently working at French Ligue 1 side Marseille, he joins the Whites as fitness coach.
Michael Skubala, who oversaw games against Manchester United and Everton, will also remain in the first team setup.
Paco Gallardo will now take charge of the Under 21s side, replacing Skubala.