Sources at Leeds United have played down a report claiming that Andrea Radrizzani is considering selling a major stake in the club to Qatar.
The Financial Times revealed last night that Qatar Sports Investments, a group backed by the Qatari state, is looking at acquiring shares in Leeds after deciding to move into English football.
QSI already controls Paris St Germain, a club it bought in 2012, but is rumoured to have grown frustrated with PSG’s failure to make significant progress in the Champions League despite serious expenditure on the French side’s squad.
The group is now targeting a stake in an English team but sources close to Radrizzani insisted last night that the Italian plans to retain his current shareholding in Leeds and overall control at Elland Road.
Radrizzani bought 100 per cent of United from Massimo Cellino and has overseen their past two seasons. Last summer, however, he sold a minority stake to the investment arm of the San Francisco 49ers in return for a cash injection of £11m.
United face significant financial pressure in the Championship and posted a loss of more than £4m for the 2017-18 financial year. Radrizzani has used player sales - the most significant involving Chris Wood and Ronaldo Vieira - to help fund transfer activity and admitted at a business conference on Tuesday that Leeds would face a “difficult” summer market having narrowly failed to win promotion to the Premier League this month.
Leeds were briefly linked with Qatari investment while Ken Bates was chairman in 2012 but the club, under Radrizzani, have been formally involved with the wealthy Gulf state since forming a partnership with Qatar’s Aspire Academy in 2017.
Ivan Bravo, the head of Aspire’s development programme, continues to serve as a director at Leeds, though United have made little public mention of Aspire since the end of Radrizzani’s unsuccessful first season as owner.
Radrizzani set himself a five-year plan when he first bought into Leeds and has spoken previously about seeking to limit his losses during his time in charge.
The 44-year-old, who made his money through the sale of TV sports rights, is currently attempting to retain the services of head coach Marcelo Bielsa and has been in negotiations over an extension to the Argentianian’ contract for the past week.
Bielsa led United to third in the Championship table and the play-offs but defeat to Derby County in the semi-finals denied Leeds and Radrizzani a share in the Premier League’s lucrative broadcasting deal.
The club are now preparing for a 16th season in the EFL.