MASSIMO CELLINO has pledged to walk away from Leeds United if the club are not promoted to the Premier League by 2017.
The United chairman, who addressed the media alongside new executive director Adam Pearson at a somewhat chaotic and bizarre press conference at Elland Road yesterday afternoon, reiterated his stance that the club is not for sale, despite endless rumours this year.
While reaffirming his commitment to Leeds, the 58-year-old revealed that he has yet to speak with Neil Redfearn regarding whether he will remain as head coach next season.
Confusion reigns regarding the future of Redfearn, who had a clause in his contract stipulating that the option of a year’s extension had to be taken up prior to Leeds’s final home game of the season with Rotherham United on May 2.
Cellino claimed that Redfearn has not contacted him since he arrived back in England after being granted permission by the Football League to return to the club’s board following his ban until the end of the regular 2014-15 season.
Pearson also defended Cellino’s stance in refusing to rush into making a decision on whether Redfearn will remain as head coach and make a knee-jerk reaction, despite many fans voicing their support for him to stay.
Cellino, who left Pearson to field questions at one point in the press conference to go outside Elland Road for a cigarette, also claimed that his wife and daughter have moved from Leeds to London following abuse they have received from irate supporters about the way he is running the club.
On Redfearn, whose deal technically expires on June 30, Cellino said: “I have to find the right coach for Leeds and not because I want to please the fans for 15 days and not because I’m worried someone will tell me ‘Cellino, it’s time to go’.
“Last year I was rushing. Now I have time and this decision is important because we have to build the team for next season.
“The decision should not be for the short term because decisions for the short term are dangerous.
“If the coach is bad, it is my mistake. I have made mistakes, a lot of mistakes because I make all the decisions.
“Is Neil the best coach for the club in the future? He’s not expensive. He’s from here.
“Then I ask myself are you sure that you aren’t thinking Neil is good because you are a coward with the fans. You don’t want to change it.
“We have an option with Neil Redfearn for next season. We are engaged with Neil that if he isn’t chosen for the first team, he gets back his position in the academy. That’s what he asked.”
Meanwhile, Cellino has attempted to firmly end speculation suggesting he will sell the club this summer.
The former Cagliari owner returned to work at Leeds on May 3 after serving a Football League ban on the back of a tax evasion conviction in Italy.
But he could face two further cases in Italy in relation to allegations of unpaid tax and potentially a further ban from being involved with the club from the Football League if he is found guilty.
The first is due to be heard on June 5, with Cellino accused of failing to pay VAT on a yacht called Lucky 23, while the second is on June 23 regarding allegations that he evaded tax owed on an imported Range Rover.
On rumours regarding selling the club, Cellino, who strenuously protested his innocence regarding those allegations, said: “I wish to go in the Premier League yesterday but it takes time.
“If, in the next two seasons, we fix the club and it is ready to face finally this challenge, I am going to stay.
“If in two seasons time, I am not ready to bring the club in the Premier League and fix this club forever, I am going to sell.
“But for two seasons, don’t tell me any more that someone wants to buy the club or that I am selling it.
“This club is not for sale, it’s never been for sale.
“I will be polite with someone when they call me and say ‘we want to buy the club.’ I speak to them.
“But how can I talk with employees and with Adam, if he thinks that the day after I’m selling the club to someone else.
“How can a player come here to make a project when it comes out in the paper every day that I’m selling the club.
“To sell the club takes six months of due diligence. What would we do for six, eight months?
“We stop playing football, I don’t buy players, I don’t decide on the coach... The club is not for sale.
“If in two years I can’t fix this club – not get it in Premier League, that’s different – I’ll sell it.”