But despite Radrizzani appearing not to have put a foot wrong at Elland Road during his initial months as owner, the microscope is now being placed on several of the Italian’s decisions after a form slump gripped the side. Leeds still remain in the upper reaches of the Championship, but a team that appeared promotion contenders have now left many fans re-evaluating their own expectations for the season.
We look at five decisions that Radrizzani may have got badly wrong on closer inspection.
1: Appointing Victor Orta as Director of Football
Orta’s arrival at Leeds initially split opinion amongst Whites fans due to the negativity which surrounded his spell at Middlesbrough. The Spaniard’s signings at Boro proved largely ineffective and the promise of Orta exploiting his contacts abroad to land the Riverside outfit bargains failed to materialise. Radrizzani has placed his faith firmly in Orta, who led Leeds’ summer business, but question marks are being asked over a recruitment drive which has left the club badly short of Championship experience.
Goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald has proved a disastrous capture, the German pushing out Rob Green to boot, while a failed loan spell at Wolves did little to suggest Cameron Borthwick-Jackson would make a steady full-back. The jury remains out on Matthew Pennington, who is in his first solid spell of regular football above League One level, and is to all purposes a replacement for the solid Kyle Bartley. For Samu Saiz shining, Leeds also have the anonymous Pawel Cibicki, the inconsistent Ezgjan Alioski and the missing in action Mateusz Klich. Jay-Roy Grot is also proving to be a mouse in elephant’s clothing, much to the frustration of Leeds fans, and the other option up top, Pierre-Michel Lasogga, has given little indication of buying into the Whites on a long term basis; there is every chance the German just wants a season of regular football behind him before a Bundesliga return.
In short, Orta has not yet done enough to warrant Radrizzani’s total transfer trust.
2. Where has the money gone?
Leeds did spend in the summer, but favoured so-called value options from overseas. The Whites banked an initial £15m from selling Chris Wood to Burnley, with Radrizzani vowing every penny would be reinvested into transfers. Also exiting for big money was Charlie Taylor, the cause of £7m flowing into the Elland Road coffers. As the form turns, Leeds fans are asking why the £22m was not spent on proven Championship players, especially with glaring holes in defence and attack. Radrizzani’s predecessor Cellino was often criticised for selling stars and not spending, with Ross McCormack, Sam Byram and Lewis Cook all leaving on his watch. Now Radrizzani is being accused of doing the same.
3. Comfort zone effect
Fans across football are aware of the loan player who turns on the style when playing for a permanent deal, but then when the dust has settled on a fat contract, slips back into mediocrity. Beyond the Premier League, players know they are only ever 12, 18 or 24 months from needing a new deal, something which serves to stimulate contract hunger glands, a vital component in bringing out 100 per cent effort performances.
Radrizzani however has forgotten that many players need to live in fear of earning their next deal to play at their best. The Italian has embarked upon handing a host of Leeds stars four-year contracts. For many, gone are the fears of worries about trawling from club to club on trials in a soon to arrive summer, waiting by the phone for news from an agent, the fate of becoming the next Toumani Diagouraga, now of Plymouth Argyle. If life becomes too hard under Thomas Christiansen, why not just wait for the next head coach to come along? For most, the contract effect is more subtle, an unconscious easing off of a few per cent. But that few per cent can be the difference between clocking a 6 or an 8 in any one game.
4. Gambling on Thomas Christiansen
The word is that Radrizzani was won over by Christiansen, someone who had never managed outside the footballing behemoth of Cyprus, when he turned on the style with a lengthy presentation. Christiansen, with something perhaps better befitting an episode of Monday Night Football, ran Radrizzani through analysis of a number of Leeds games, while also presenting a run down of several players and areas needing improvement. Radrizzani was instantly heading for the phone, telling the club secretary at Elland Road to prepare a contract. It is possible appointing Christiansen is a stroke of genius, but the footballing CV of past appointments and achievements appeared to have gone out of the window.
Arriving from abroad with no English football experience and leading clubs out of the Championship is very much the exception rather than the rule. If Radrizzani had simply rustled through the pages of previous seasons he would have seen the names of Rafael Benitez, Sean Dyche, Eddie Howe, Nigel Pearson, Malky Mackay, Brian McDermott, Neil Warnock, Chris Hughton and Mick McCarthy, as far back as 2009, as the managers of Championship winning sides. Christiansen could have pointed to Aitor Karanka leading Middlesbrough to second in 2015/16, but the Spaniard had been in charge since 2013 and few would put APOEL in Cyprus on a par with working alongside Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.
While Christiansen could get it right, make no mistake, Radrizzani has taken a punt on the 44-year-old.
5. Buying back Elland Road
Radrizzani’s purchase of Elland Road massively added to the feel-good factor at Leeds and served as a symbol of a club once again on track. But at what cost? The Italian forked out close to the £20m mark to buy back Elland Road and eliminate rent of £1.7m per year. Some fans are asking though, why not pump that sum into the team? Upon promotion to the Premier League, a £20m payment to buy back Elland Road would be chicken feed, but in the Championship, the cash could be used to hugely strengthen the team. The £20m allied to the £22m received from selling Wood and Taylor would have allowed Leeds to shop at the top end of the Championship market, signing the likes of Dwight Gayle from Newcastle United to guarantee goals.
Bringing Elland Road into the fold was a long term statement from Radrizzani, but not owning the ground did not stop the Whites from having a promotion push last season. Should the team not have been the priority for a man aiming to end Leeds’ over a decade long absence from the top flight?