Will Cellino’s Cagliari set-up translate to English football? TSS April 24, 2014 Leeds United 51 Comments We’re approaching the beginning of May which means ‘silly season’ is upon us and the rumour mill has spluttered back into life. Under new ownership, Leeds United are expected to feature heavily in the transfer market, but whether it’ll be Brian McDermott or a new coach preparing the recruits for the 2014/15 Championship campaign remains undecided. With Massimo Cellino running the show, Leeds United’s management situation will have little effect on transfers. The Italian will act in a Director of Football role, identifying and signing the players he feels will be of benefit to the club while Brian McDermott (or his replacement) will simply have to coach Cellino’s ensemble. It’s an unusual situation because it means the club are already looking at transfer targets despite the uncertain future of our manager. Other clubs with scouting networks presumably do the same, but the scouts would then have to convince a new manager the players they’ve selected are up to the task, thus delaying any movement. In our case, Massimo Cellino will act autonomously and expect the new manager/coach to get the best out of the players he signs. There are clearly bonuses to this system, but there are downsides too. If we sign a load of overrated nobodies, that’ll be entirely the fault of our owner. But Cellino isn’t going to punish and fire himself, he’s a very single-minded individual who can easily pass the blame to the ‘coach’ instead. It doesn’t matter if Cellino signs 20 Roque Juniors, he’ll bear no responsibility for their failure because Cellino will blame the coach for not getting them to perform, and that’s not a position many top coaches are going to want to be in. Another problem of the system is the players become even more powerful, further upsetting the bizarre power balance of football in relation to every other business in the world. Cellino is known to be very protective of those he signs, so while Cellino is shielding them from criticism by blaming the coach and the coach is banging his head against a wall pointing out that they’re not good enough and he had no influence in signing them, the players get a free pass. There are other people involved in the process of identifying players of course. Massimo Cellino uses a network of scouts he’s built up at Cagliari who’ve had tremendous success in uncovering rough gems. But the people wearing the club colours is ultimately decided by Cellino and if he gets it all wrong, he’s unsackable. Single-minded, narcissistic and bulletproof. I may be alone here, but that doesn’t sit comfortably with me. People will say the Director of Football role is common abroad and is just as successful as the English model, which is true, but this situation isn’t quite the same. A Director of Football is usually someone a club hires (like Michael Elemano at Chelsea) which means they’re also someone who can be replaced when things aren’t working out (like Dennis Wise at Newcastle United). An owner taking on that position is a very different thing indeed. Perhaps I’m so accustomed to things working out badly for Leeds, I can’t help but expect the worst. You could argue my fears are unfounded since Cellino had the same set-up at Cagliari and things worked out relatively well for him there, but unchecked power can be disastrous (like it was with Bates). And since things rarely work out well for Leeds, I find it’s best practice to expect the worst. At least that way you’re rarely disappointed.