Leeds owner Cellino defends Ross sale

Massimo Cellino.
Massimo Cellino.
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Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino has defended the sale of Ross McCormack to Fulham, saying he was “disrespected” by the Scotland international and forced into a deal.

McCormack left Leeds for Craven Cottage this morning after Cellino agreed a multi-million pound deal for the 27-year-old late last night.

The sale of United’s club captain - a transfer which is understood to have cost Fulham around £11m - went through less than two weeks after Cellino vowed to keep the striker at Elland Road, saying his future was a “matter of principle not money.”

McCormack, who scored 29 goals for Leeds last season, had three years left on his contract with United but his departure was widely expected after he submitted a transfer request and missed the club’s pre-season tour to Italy.

Cellino - the Italian businessman who bought Leeds in April - told that McCormack had been absent from United’s tour without permission, despite recent claims that the forward was given additional time off for stress-related reasons.

Cellino said: “I like to be in control of situations but it felt like he wasn’t my player. I was disrespected, he was aggressive with me.

“He didn’t turn up for the tour and all the time he wanted to go from here. It wasn’t in my mind to sell McCormack, it wasn’t my plan, but I had no choice.

“He’s a bloody good player and I’m not going to pretend that he isn’t but he didn’t respect me and it wasn’t possible to keep him.”

McCormack, who has signed a four year deal with Fulham, is yet to speak at length about his departure but was quoted on Twitter as saying that Leeds were “no longer the Leeds United I fell in love with.”

The club has undergone major internal change since Cellino completed his buy-out of United on April 7.

Asked if the money raised through the sale of McCormack would be reinvested in the squad, Cellino said: “The players we’re going to buy, we were buying anyway. So we need another forward now.

“We needed a team, not just one or two players like we had last season, and we’ll sign the same people because it wasn’t the plan to sell McCormack and use the money for transfers. In my head he was staying but things happen.”

Cellino revealed that Leeds have completed the signing of goalkeeper Marco Silvestri on a four-year deal from Chievo and finalised the arrival of midfielder Tommaso Bianchi, a former Italian Under-21 international who is joining from Sassuolo on a three-year deal.

Cellino also confirmed that he is in talks with Swiss-born centre-back Jonathan Rossini, another Sassuolo player.