Without doubt, and after a series of more-than-ropey owners, Massimo Cellino’s arrival as Leeds United owner was more on the bitter end of the bitter-sweet continuum.
Yes, there was the sweetness that he’d begun to rid the club of the canker that was GFH Capital but the bitterness more than outweighed any sweeter moments. Leeds United became a tombola drum of Cellino rants and mistakes. Coaches came and went as the madcap Italian lived up to his nickname of il mangia alenatori the manager eater.
Sackings and maltreatment of both head coaches and club personnel brought about much simmering hatred and this spilled over into an official campaign to oust him as the club’s owner. Fans got their wish last season when an initial 50% ownership deal turned into full ownership under his fellow Italian Andrea Radrizzani.
One of the early features that seemed to indicate Leeds’ direction under Cellino was the bringing in of cheap imports from the Italian leagues, leagues that he was familiar with. Tranches of them initially came to Elland Road, ephemeral players such as Zan Benedicic, Dario Del Fabro and the infamous Brazilian Adryan.
Mixed in amongst those ‘ghosts’ were players that had a longer impact such as Giuseppe Bellusci and Marco Silvestri. Two others stood out as making a greater impact for the Whites, Gaetano Berardi still being at the club and striker Mirco Antenucci who played two seasons at Elland Road.
Antenucci’s two-season spell with the Whites brought him 19 goals, eight assists and endeared him to a large number of Leeds United supporters. He left on a free transfer back to his native Italy and a contract with then-Serie B side SPAL. His goals in his first season there helped SPAL to promotion to Serie A where he has continued scoring.
He has eight goals up to press, with five assists, and in a recent article by Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzo (quoting Gazetta Dello Sports’ interview) he opened up about one aspect of his time at Elland Road – Massimo Cellino. On the then-owner of the Whites, Antenucci is highly critical of his involvement in team affairs – something Leeds fans had been noticing at the time. He says to Di Marzo, “I’m showing how much I’m worth [to SPAL]“, before launching into a very barbed criticism of Massimo Cellino’s meddling.
Complimenting Leeds United fans saying “In Leeds they feel football,” he goes on to point out one thing that stopped him still being at Elland Road. On this he states, “If I had scored 12 goals in my second season, I would have reached an automatic contract extension. I had already scored 8 in December, so the owner of the club Cellino demanded that I could not play anymore.
At the time this accusation was denied as being the reason why the likeable Italian wasn’t playing for Leeds. However Mirco Antenucci’s words here more than lay open those denials for the untruths that they seem to be.