"We cannnot buy players and never sell players." Leeds United owner Radrizzani defends Vieira exit

Former Leeds United midfielder Ronaldo Vieira.
Former Leeds United midfielder Ronaldo Vieira.
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Leeds United chairman Andrea Radrizzani has described the sale of Ronaldo Vieira as a “difficult sacrifice I had to do” after sanctioning the midfielder’s £7.7m move to Sampdoria.

In an interview with the YEP, Radrizzani said he had agreed to Vieira’s departure to secure a cash injection at Elland Road, insisting Leeds were not in a position to “buy players and never sell any players.”

Vieira joined Sampdoria on a five-year contract on Tuesday, an unexpected transfer which came about quickly after Leeds accepted an offer from the Serie A club last Sunday.

The 20-year-old - a player Radrizzani handed a new four-year contract immediately after the Italian’s takeover of Leeds last summer - had established a promising reputation with United and broken into the England Under-21 squad but was deemed expendable after Sampdoria’s seven-figure offer arrived.

Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa said yesterday that the sale was one which “the club decided and I adapt to this decision” and Radrizzani admitted that Vieira was a player who Bielsa would have been happy to keep.

United’s majority shareholder revealed that Bielsa had also advised him that Vieira’s value could rise significantly over the next 12 months but Radrizzani claimed the transfer made financial sense and said he would speak with Bielsa about the possibility of signing a replacement before the end of the transfer window.

Vieira playing against Cardiff in 2017.

Vieira playing against Cardiff in 2017.

Vieira’s departure came as Leeds were in the process of sealing the £7m purchase of striker Patrick Bamford from Middlesbrough.

Radrizzani said: “To be honest and fair, Marcelo told me he was a player who had value and he could count on him, not in the line-up but as a first option on the bench. To give me advice, he said ‘if you take £7m this year you would take double next year for the way he will go.’

“I’m not stupid, I don’t want to lose money and I know I could sell for more next year, but the club unfortunately needs to have some injection.

“We need to focus investment on what we need. At this moment we needed a striker and we need players with other characteristics so we had to take this sacrifice. It was very difficult for me. It’s a sacrifice that even if I didn’t want, I had to do.”

Radrizzani said around £45m had been spent on United’s first team during his time as majority shareholder through a combination of his own funds, the sale of players and the recent injection of cash by the investment arm of NFL franchise the San Francisco 49ers.

“The club injected a lot of money and it’s never enough,” he said. “Between my personal money, transfer sales and the 49ers, we’ve injected more than £45m into the team and it’s not enough. We still need more. We cannot just buy players and never sell any players. This doesn’t work for any club in the world.

“Unfortunately, the only offer we received was for Ronaldo. He’s a player that I personally like a lot. When I arrived at the club the first thing I did was renew his contract for four years. I think and I trust he could become a good player for Leeds and, in the future, for England.

“I believe his move to Sampdoria will improve his skills because it’s a club where they take care of youth and they’ve proven to develop youngsters amazingly. They have a very good coach. His weaknesses can improve in Italy in my opinion and he could come back to be a top Premier League player in a few years.

“I joked with him and said I hope to be in the Premier League and buy him back. I hope this joke can become true one day.”

Leeds have been linked with a number of central midfielders since Vieira’s departure, including Brighton’s Oliver Norwood, and their options have been temporarily reduced by the loss of Adam Forshaw for up to eight weeks with a foot injury.

Speaking ahead of Leeds first league game of the season tomorrow, at home to Stoke City, Bielsa said: “I’m not sure if another player will come in to replace Ronaldo or not. What makes the situation more complicated is that Adam will be out for six to eight weeks. So we have to think about it.”

Radrizzani told the YEP: “For sure we know that he was happy to keep Ronaldo. We will talk to him and see if we need an additional player or if he’s happy. We still have time.”