Italian side Cagliari remain under Massimo Cellino’s control after the proposed sale of the club to a group of American investors collapsed just hours after a deal was reached to renovate Cagliari’s stadium.
Cellino, who set a deadline of yesterday for a US group led by Italian businessman Luca Silvestrone to make a down-payment for Cagliari, claims to have lost all contact with the group and intimated today that the £65m takeover was dead.
The American interest in Cagliari has been both long-running and a source of confusion in Sardinia amid public doubt about whether the proposal would lead to a change of ownership and end Cellino’s 22-year reign as president.
The Leeds United owner has been quoted repeatedly as saying that he could not continue to run two professional clubs after completing a buy-out of Leeds two months ago.
Cellino said last month that any sake of Cagliari would have no impact on his strategy at Elland Road, though a multi-million pound deal would significantly strengthen his hand financially.
The US-based investment group - representatives of whom met with Cellino in Miami last week - were due to make a payment of 10m euros to him yesterday after the council in Cagliari ruled that the club could increase the capacity of their Sant’Elia stadium to 16,000.
But speaking to L’Unione Sarda, Cellino said: “There is no American investment group interested in acquiring Cagliari.
“I have not seen or heard from anyone since last Wednesday’s meeting with Silvestrone and Dan Meis in Miami. No down payment of 10 million has been received. From what I can gather they only can be found through ‘missing’.
“I only decided to meet Silvestrone because I was asked by a number of fans to do so. I always had the impression that Silvestrone was just representing himself and not a group.”
Silvestrone has not responded to Cellino’s comments.
The American bid, credible or not, proposed to buy Cagliari and most of the club’s assets. A second offer put forward by Tommaso Giulini, a former Inter Milan executive, was understood to be for the club alone and made at a far lower value but Cellino could now revisit that option after the collapse of the US approach.
The decision by the council to allow Cagliari to extend their neglected ground from a capacity of 5,000 to 16,000 appears to have ended the threat of Cagliari being forced to play home Serie A games away from their ground next season due to a lack of room for supporters.
Cagliari have also received £2.2m as part of their deal with the council, potentially increasing the value of the club in any future takeover.
Cellino has planned to attend the Football League’s annual general meeting in Portugal this week but chose not to travel at short notice with the council’s decision over Cagliari’s stadium pending and Leeds continuing to fight a winding-up petition served on them by Sport Capital.
The petition over a disputed loan of £950,000 made to Leeds last November is due to be heard by a judge in London on Monday and Tuesday.
The Football League’s gathering in Portugal would have been Cellino’s first meeting with senior officials from the governing body since the Football League’s board attempted to block his takeover of Leeds.
That decision was overturned on appeal by an independent QC, allowing Cellino to buy a 75 per cent stake in the club in April