PROSPECTIVE new Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino held meetings with manager Brian McDermott and managing director David Haigh at the end of last week – outlining his future plans for the club.
The Italian businessman, still awaiting Football League approval ahead of completing his proposed £25m takeover of the club, jetted into the UK from his Miami base just over a week ago and staged talks with the pair over the weekend.
Meanwhile, in a separate development, United are being linked with a move for Stoke City’s England international goalkeeper Jack Butland.
The Bristolian, 20, is currently third-choice at the Britannia Stadium behind Thomas Sorensen and Asmir Begovic - with the Potters willing to let him out on loan for the rest of the season and happy to part-fund a move to a Championship club by contributing to his wages.
On the takeover front, there are no fresh developments or updates to announce regarding Cellino’s proposed takeover, according to league officials who were contacted by the YEP yesterday.
Before Cellino can complete his takeover, he needs to pass the league’s Owners and Directors’ Test, formerly known as the ‘Fit and Proper Person Test’. Cellino’s legal team believe he will pass the test, with two previous convictions for fraud spent under English law.
Cellino and United’s current owners Gulf Finance House finalised his takeover on February 7, exchanging contracts after the 57-year-old made an initial payment to the Bahraini bank.
League approval is the only obstacle in his way and United are anxious for the governing body to sanction his purchase quickly after mounting financial pressure saw them take a £1.5m loan from Cellino to help cover the wage bill for January.
Club wages for this month are due to be paid out within a fortnight, with United’s current owners facing another potential cash-flow problem if the ownership issue isn’t resolved quickly, especially with the club having no home game until March 8.
McDermott was expected to meet Cellino for just the second time following United’s game against Brighton at the Amex Stadium seven days ago.
In the event, Cellino didn’t attend the match, ahead of meeting with league officials the following day.
Cellino, reportedly attempting to sell Serie A club Cagliari, has since met with McDermott and is believed to be keen on clearing out a sizeable number of surplus senior players out of the club to help reduce the monthly salary bill at United.
The Italian is also said to be eager on rebuilding his working relationship with McDermott after the calamitous events which led to his lawyer Chris Farnell being instructed to ‘sack’ the Leeds boss on January 31, despite not having the authority to do so.
Cellino subsequently backtracked in interviews and insisted he did not axe McDermott, adding that he did not want to replace him with former Middlesbrough defender Gianluca Festa.
McDermott, who returned to work on February 3 after after his ‘sacking’ was reversed by the club, is keen to draw a line under the events and spoke of his hopes of constructive dialogue with Cellino ahead of the Brighton game.
Speaking last week, McDermott said: “We’ll just have a conversation.
“We will talk about football and where we see things and then go from there. With any owner, you have to build a relationship over a period of time.
“Owners make decisions on managers and that’s how it is. You respect that.”