What Does The 49ers Investment Mean For The Future Of Leeds United?
The dark days of League One football at Elland Road seem like a distant memory now, a nightmare from which lifelong fans of the club have finally awoken.
Leeds United returned to the Premier League with a bang and played some scintillating football to end the 2020-21 season in ninth place under Marcelo Bielsa. A huge factor to the club’s success has been thanks to chairman Andrea Radrizzani’s investment. With 49ers Enterprises now owning 37 per cent of the club as well, it looks as though the future could be bright for the Whites.
49ers Increase Investment in Leeds
The San Francisco 49ers decided to follow in the footsteps of several other NFL franchises by investing in the Premier League. They initially bought a 15 per cent stake in United two years ago and, in January this year decided to increase that holding to 37 per cent. The move made Paraag Marathe the vice-chairman of Leeds, and there was also a shakeup in the boardroom to give the American investors more control.
Radrizzani still remains the major shareholder of the club, but this move could be paving the way for a full sale in the years ahead. The Italian businessman has already tripled his initial investment of £100 million thanks to some shrewd moves during his time with the club. Radrizzani has had a clear vision from day one and made the necessary outlays to achieve promotion back to the top flight. This included splashing out on key players like Patrick Bamford for £7 million in the 2018-19 season and Helder Costa on a £15 million loan to buy deal before the 2019-20 campaign.
The biggest move of all was signing Bielsa, who is considered by many to be one of the greatest managers in the game. Radrizzani agreed to pay the Argentine around £6 million per year to steer Leeds back to the promised land, and the Crazy One dutifully delivered in his second season at the helm. Now with the 49ers more heavily invested in Leeds, Marathe will be able to boost their fortunes further with his knowledge and analytical tools that have been used to such great effect in the NFL.
Success in Premier League has Given Leeds Stability to Push On
Achieving promotion to the Premier League was only half the battle for Radrizzani. Leeds needed to avoid relegation in the first campaign, otherwise, all of their hard work would have been in vain. They managed to do this in some style and were one of the most successful newly promoted teams in the history of the division. Indeed, Bielsa’s side finished on 59 points and was lauded for their attacking performances which yielded 62 goals.
Now, Leeds need to push on and improve on this display. The foundations are there already, and some of last summer’s signings should be even better after having a year to get used to the manager’s extreme demands. The aim for next season will surely be to finish in the European places, and experts are tipping the West Yorkshire club to do just that. As of the 14th of July, Leeds can be backed at odds of 9/2 with Betway to claim a finishing place in the top six next term. With a few shrewd additions in the summer, which doesn’t sound beyond the realms of their capabilities.
Sustainability Will be the Main Focus
The further investment from the 49ers, along with the money that Leeds have earned from consolidating their position in the Premier League, should give the club the funds they need to get to the next level. However, the business geniuses behind the scenes will be weary that sustainability is the most important thing to consider before setting lofty ambitions.
Leeds famously fell from grace in the mid-2000s when they overspent on players and the board members know there can never be a repeat of this. Radrizzani and the 49ers are now focusing on expanding the stadium to increase revenue from ticket sales. The club is also investing heavily into the youth setup and have purchased promising young players such as Joe Gelhardt and Sam Greenwood. These forwards could both be huge in the years ahead. The array of talent in the Under 23s also acts as a safety blanket in the unlikely event that Leeds are relegated.
The increased investment from the 49ers is good news for United. These are experienced and ambitious business people who know how to run a successful club. The next few years could see Leeds return to their former glory as one of the top teams in the country.