When Leeds United were taken over by Gulf Financial House in December, fans assumed they were waving goodbye to the days of selling the likes of Max Gradel, Jonny Howson and Robert Snodgrass and looking forward to a period of stability, investment and retaining their key players. But when news emerged earlier today that Luciano Becchio had handed in a transfer request because of wage disputes, it’s apparent that not a lot has changed down at Elland Road.
Luciano Becchio, despite the polarisation in opinion amongst some fans, is a cult figure in Beeston. Revered initially for his tireless work ethic when partnering Jermaine Beckford and then later for his knack for goal scoring, his strike against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup remains a high point in his career. Unfortunately, it has been mostly downhill from there on. The Argentine, who is the club’s leading goalscorer this season with 19 in 31 appearances, was accused by Neil Warnock following the defeat against bottom of the league Barnsley of having his “head turned”. Following this, he was dropped for the FA Cup game away to Birmingham City - though sickness was cited as the reason, rumours of a move to Wigan were rife. Ultimately, Warnock proved to be right, with the former-Barcelona B man suffering a dip in form before handing in a transfer request.
The strongly-worded statement on the club’s official website declares that the club cannot afford to give Becchio - already the highest earner at Leeds - the demands he wants. This in particular is painful for the Leeds fans; the takeover was meant to solve these issues, to right Ken Bates’ wrongs, yet we still find ourselves losing out to players like Chris Wood and unable to keep Alan Tate for similar reasons. As well as this, it also states that the club have already received and rejected two bids from foreign clubs, at least one of which is speculated to be from China, revealed by former defender Alan Tate on Talksport. At 29 years old, with a young family and the fact that he’s been a loyal servant to the club since he arrived in 2008, one wouldn’t begrudge him a move and a final pay off - it’s not often that technically limited players like himself get such an opportunity. What hurts the most is the timing, the fact that it’s happened when we’re supposed to be strengthening the team.
Leeds’ promotion push already seemed to be derailed before we entered 2013 and this news, coupled with our underwhelming transfer activity of late, seems to be the final nail in the coffin as far as this season is concerned. The new owners, lauded for acts such as reduced ticket prices for some games, now find themselves facing an uphill battle if they want to stay onside with the fans. Winter truly is the cruelest month.