New prospective Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino insists he didn’t sack manager Brian McDermott, nor does he intend to.
The Championship club is in chaos and Cagliari President Cellino hasn’t even officially taken over yet, as the deal to buy 75 per cent still has to be ratified.
Over the last 48 hours manager McDermott received a phone call from a lawyer purportedly representing Cellino’s group to tell him he’d been fired, then Leeds released a statement insisting he had never been dismissed.
Cellino gave an interview to The Telegraph that muddied the waters even more, as he claimed the existing owners GFH Capital sacked the manager and were now trying to back-pedal.
“I want the Coach back and have been trying to call him,” said Cellino. “I don’t mind this Coach. How could I sack anyone anyway? I need the approval of the Football League before I own the club.
“GFH are still running Leeds United. They did not want Brian as manager but didn’t have the courage to sack him.”
To make it even more confusing, Leeds United beat Huddersfield 5-1 on Saturday without McDermott.
It had been said Cellino sparked the situation by demanding Gianluca Festa sit on the bench with McDermott for their game with Ipswich on Tuesday, but that the manager refused.
“Festa was not here to coach the club, just to make the translation with the players. Festa has never run a club before. I have never had him coach a team in Italy before, so why would I want him to coach a major club like Leeds?”
Cellino has already orchestrated a transfer, as Cagliari loaned ex-Cesena midfielder Andrea Tabanelli to Leeds, but he claims there were other deals held up by the delay in ratifying his takeover.
“I have already paid for the shares and the papers are with the Football League. I can’t do anything and I’m really p------ off,” added Cellino.
It remains to be seen whether the takeover will go ahead at all, seeing as Cellino has two convictions for fraud in Italy and could therefore fail the Football League’s ‘fit and proper person’ test.
The Miami-based businessman was also in prison for several days last year over accusations the Is Arenas stadium – where Cagliari were meant to play their home games – was constructed fraudulently.
He was accused of building the arena using permits for a temporary structure, such as a music festival stage, but intended to keep it there permanently.
The Is Arenas repeatedly failed security checks and was later torn down by the authorities.