Cagliari President Massimo Cellino said the Football League “is hurting Leeds very deeply” by blocking his takeover.
He has lodged an appeal after the Football League ruled he failed the ‘fit and proper person’ test because of a tax evasion conviction in Italy.
“From the beginning I was assured it would be alright, otherwise why would I invest money in Leeds and get a house in Leeds? Because I had nothing to do? That means something strange is going on,” Cellino told Sky Sports News in the UK.
“I am not a kid. I am 57 years old. I talked lately with the guys in charge of the fanbase in Leeds and they seem nice. They finally understood that I am a good person and they are happy to fight with me for Leeds.
“The supporters are being really hurt and given no respect. That’s the real problem. And I don’t really understand what’s going on. I hope everything will be alright, that they’ll let me run the club the way I know how and so I can seriously show people who I am.”
Cellino was asked about the conviction for tax evasion on a yacht in Italy, but tried to explain the labyrinthine legal system.
“There is a strike of lawyers and has been for three months. We went to the trial and appealed ‘not guilty’ because I am not guilty, and we asked for a sentence straight away.
“But the League never said they were waiting for the sentence. They told us they were waiting for February 13 Board meeting to decide, but instead they were waiting for February 18 to hear the sentence.
“The law is completely different in Italy, as the first sentence is only the first grade of the justice system. It’s like warming up!
“Why should I defend myself publicly? I bought that yacht with my friend in America, from an American company, so why should I pay the tax in America and then take the boat to Italy and try to avoid paying £180,000 VAT? Am I a thief? If I do something like that for £180,000, I can buy a new boat every month for what I pay Leeds for their wages!
“It’s not true! I am not guilty! This is an excuse for them to make me not take Leeds. When I bought Leeds, there were people dealing for a year and never bought it. I went there and bought Leeds.
“So, people were all talk and say they have money, but I went there and got the money out the next day. I don’t wait.”
Sky Sports News asked Cellino how much money he had already ploughed into Leeds United since his initial take-over two months ago.
“I think it’s very impolite to talk about the amount of money. I will just say that the shareholders of my company, not just me, pay £14m. And I’m supposed to be a guy who tried to save £180,000 VAT on a boat? Come on. I don’t believe I’m so stupid. If I was, I’d plead guilty for stupidity!”
After Cellino’s bid was blocked, the Leeds players had to accept a 50 per cent wage cut for this month.
“I cannot pay now, as it would not be accepted. I cannot throw money away knowing it will never come back. It’s not just my money, so I am just the manager of a company and have to respect the rules.
“The Leeds players know they are going to be paid. The big problem now is what damage has been done to Leeds, as they are losing a lot of games for various reasons.
“This club is going to be shamed publicly with talk of administration and bankruptcy. Come on! It’s really bad. What’s the reason?”
Cellino was asked if he had a message for the Football League as they prepare to consider his appeal.
“The message is they should be clear to look after the clubs they represent in the proper way. I don’t think they are representing the interests of the clubs or doing the right thing. They are hurting Leeds, not Massimo Cellino, very deeply.”
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