It has been almost 15 years since Leeds United last played in the Premier League. After two relegations, a brief spell under administration, years spent toiling in League One, and a chaotic spell in the Championship under the ownership of Massimo Cellino, the last couple of years must seem heavenly for the long-suffering Leeds fans.
The club’s fortunes started improving under the ownership of Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani, who bought out the club from his compatriot in 2017. While that alone would have made him popular among the Leeds faithful, his repurchase of Elland Road, the club’s estranged home ground certainly made his position stronger.
And since the appointment of the brilliant Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds United seems to be well and truly on the right track. Even when not creating news for their on-field performances, the club and its eccentric manager seem to catch the attention of the media and public regularly.
They may have narrowly lost out on what seemed to be a nailed on promotion place last season, but that disappointment has been replaced by renewed hope in the current season. A lot of that has got to do with the statements made by the owner of the club – Andrea Radrizzani.
Radrizzani’s talk about future ownership
The 45-year old businessman has invested quite a lot of cash into his Leeds project. Besides spending a reported £20 million on the purchase of Elland Road, Radrizzani is also paying close to £6 million a year to Bielsa and his staff, and another 36 million to the players.
But the media and sports-investment mogul is incredibly ambitious and keen on a quick return to the Premier League. And he probably realizes that even with his £400 billion fortune, he could use a helping hand from some other investors.
As a result, recent chatter about Leeds United in the media has revolved around potential investment from new owners. Radrizzani himself confirmed these rumors, saying that at least 20 different groups had shown an interest in taking up a share in the club.
Given the pedigree of Leeds, and the void in West Yorkshire for a really big Premier League side, that number does not seem that farfetched. Leeds is probably the biggest city in the UK without a major football team in the Premier League and taking the club to the top should be a very lucrative deal in itself.
The three potential candidates
According to Radrizzani, those 20 offers have been whittled down to just three possible candidates who could have a future ownership role in the club. The identity of the two of them is not clear at the moment. Reports indicate that one is a US entrepreneur who happens to be a huge fan of Leeds United. The other is the owner of an as-yet-unnamed Italian football club.
But it is the identity of the third candidate that has generated waves in the English football media. Nasser Al-Khelaifi is no stranger to owning a football club. The Qatari business magnate, who is of the same age as Radrizzani, is none other than the owner of Paris St Germain. A retired tennis pro, Khelaifi has close ties to the Qatar ruling family and is the president of many sporting bodies, both national and international.
But for Leeds United, it will be his role as the Chairman of Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) that will be most tantalizing. The QSI is owned by the state of Qatar through its sovereign welfare fund, the Qatar Investment Authority. Simply put, it is the Qatari equivalent of the owners over at Manchester City.
Why Al-Khelaifi could be the frontrunner
There are several reasons why a Qatari presence in the boardroom of Leeds United seems the more likely outcome. Radrizzani has known Al-Khelaifi for a long time and is on good personal terms with him. Surely he would prefer to have a familiar face as co-owner of his pet project in England?
And from the Qatari side, they have a long-running rivalry with the Emirates, which has often spilt onto football fields. Owning a storied club like Leeds United and taking on the might of Manchester City at the top might be a very attractive prospect for Al-Khelaifi and his royal patrons in Doha.
If this does indeed come to fruition, then Leeds United could be headed in the same direction as Manchester City. Financial Fairplay will, of course, slow down the pace at which they develop, but we could soon see a revamped Leeds side compete regularly at the top of the English football soon.
As for the other top contenders for promotion, the frontrunners include West Brom who are at 4/5 or 5/6, depending on who you ask. Recent returnees from the EPL, Fulham are back in the hunt again according to the bookies, with 6/5 or 11/10. Get all the English Championship betting offers and previews for 2019/20 right here for these teams and many more.
It took Manchester City and the City Football Group 4-5 years to get their act together. And they were already in the top flight. Leeds United has quite a long way to go at the moment. Promotion this year is the absolute minimum that everyone expects from them.
And as far as the bookies are concerned, they are the favorites, despite their wobbly start to the season in 19-20. Most of the major platforms are giving odds of 4/9 for the Whites to make it to the Premier League. Bielsa and co need to get their act together, and soon.