Andrea Radrizzani has told Italian transfer expert Gianluca Di Marzio that he and Leeds United considered Antonio Conte as the club’s manager before turning to Argentine genius Marcelo Bielsa to fill the hotseat.
Leeds were looking for a new manager in the summer of 2018, after Paul Heckingbottom had been sacked despite taking the club on a post-season trip to Myanmar. Radrizzani had seen Thomas Christiansen and Garry Monk fail beforehand.
Approaching his third season, he was keen to do something different. Leeds had finished in 13th place, well below Radrizzani’s dream of promotion and the Premier League. Eventually, the Whites went for Marcelo Bielsa and he has since become an icon.
But the Leeds owner admitted in an interview with Di Marzio on Tuesday that he considered approaching Antonio Conte, who had been sacked by Chelsea and replaced by Maurizio Sarri. He even discussed spending £18million on Conte (€20million).
“It was at the end of my first year here, which was tough. I was in the car with our sports director. I ask him: ‘Let’s think of three managers to get promotion’. I tell him that ‘I could pay €20m to Conte and I’m sure we will go up’,”Radrizzani said.
“But I knew that he had higher ambitions. Victor Orta told me that Bielsa would be ideal but it was impossible. As soon as I heard ‘impossible’, I told him to call. When we talked with him, Bielsa had watched eight games and talked about the players.”
TBR’s view – Conte is a top manager, but Bielsa was the perfect addition
Indeed, Conte has shown this season that he is one of the best managers on the planet – taking a deteriorating Inter Milan side and improving them enormously, so much so they have pushed Juventus all the way for the Serie A title.
But Bielsa has reinstalled a feeling of optimism at Elland Road. His aura has spread across the city, rejuvenating a club that had begun to languish in the second tier – Leeds are now the longest-serving Championship side.
When football finally resumes, Bielsa will surely bring Premier League football back to Elland Road.