The Cellino connection: His old aide is behind Bianchi’s return from Leeds United to Italy

Tommaso Bianchi
Tommaso Bianchi
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Ascoli are set to end Tommaso Bianchi’s unsuccessful stay at Leeds United by pushing through a deal to sign the midfielder permanently.

Bianchi has reached the end of a his half-season loan in Italy but Ascoli’s survival in Serie B has cleared the way for Bianchi to join them on a three-year contract.

Ascoli negotiated a full-time option for Bianchi when they took him from Leeds in January but that option was dependent on the club avoiding relegation.

They finished 15th in the Serie B table, two points clear of the drop, and are now expected to finalise Bianchi’s switch.

Bianchi made an inauspicious start to his spell with Ascoli, incurring a red card on his debut in a 3-0 defeat to Cesena, but he has played 16 times and helped the club secure safety at the end of a hard season.

His career with United was already at an end when he left Elland Road in the January transfer window, despite Bianchi having two years left on a four-year contract.

He was among the first clutch of signings made after Massimo Cellino’s takeover of Leeds in April 2014, moving to England from Serie A side Sassuolo, but an initial spell of appearances in the 2014-15 campaign was followed by a lengthy absence from the first team.

Bianchi’s prospects were hindered by a knee operation in February 2015 and a further bout of surgery six months later.

He has not played for Leeds since starting in a 2-0 win at Reading 15 months ago, the last of his 26 outings.

Current Leeds head coach Steve Evans admitted in January that Bianchi was enthusiastic about the prospect of returning to Italy after 18 months in the Championship.

“He’s a fantastic lad and he’s had a difficult time with injury but I do think the game in Italy suits him better than the game in England,” Evans said.

Bianchi’s departure would leave Giuseppe Bellusci, Souleymane Doukara, Casper Sloth, Gaetano Berardi, Liam Cooper and Marco Silvestri as the only surviving members from the group of 15 signings who arrived at Elland Road during Cellino’s first transfer window as owner.

Striker Mirco Antenucci – another United player who Ascoli tried to sign in January – was released by the club last week, and Leeds will continue to look for offers for Danish midfielder Sloth during the summer. Sloth has started only eight games since signing for United in a £600,000 switch from Aarhus.

Ascoli’s transfer dealings are in the hands of sporting director Francesco Marroccu, a man who worked in a similar role under Cellino while United’s chairman was in charge of Cagliari.

Cellino planned to appoint a new head of recruitment at Elland Road this summer having lost Martyn Glover to Sunderland around Christmas, but Marroccu said he had no interest in that job.

“With Cellino I am fond of him because he was the person who made possible my entry into the world of football, but we have not talked about a future together again,” Marroccu said.