Who is Massimo Cellino? The controversial Italian vying to take over Leeds United

Suspicious of the number 17, a lover of the electric guitar and quickly making waves at Elland Road

It didn't take long for Massimo Cellino to make an impression at Leeds United. The Sardinian was blocked in at Elland Road on Friday night as furious fans descended on the ground to protest his decision to dismiss manager Brian McDermott before he'd even officially purchased the club. He then pleaded with McDermott to return while claiming he never sacked him before jetting back to his home in Miami. 

The dramatic series of events made headlines around England, but for supporters of Cellino's other team, Cagliari, the entire scenario would be nothing out of the ordinary. Since buying his hometown club just over two decades ago, he has sacked a remarkable 35 managers. There has never been a dull moment with the chain-smoking 57-year-old wannabe rock star fixated with superstitions involved.  

Cellino inherited the reigns of his father Ercole's successful agricultural company and also heads several other prominent firms specialising in corn and wheat. Despite being branded a 'mangiallenatori' - a manager-eater - he has proven himself to be a shrewd operator in keeping modest Cagliari in Serie A for a large part of his stint at the helm. In 1994 they even reached the Uefa Cup semi-finals. For the most part he's highly respected and in some cases even a celebrated figure among Rossoblu supporters.   

He also has a tendency to interfere with matters closer to the pitch. One of the alleged reasons for dismissing McDermott was that he wouldn't allow former Middlesbrough and Cagliari defender Gianluca Festa to sit on the Leeds bench for last Tuesday's match against Ipswich. In 2010, Cellino froze Italian international goalkeeper Federico Marchetti out of the Rossoblu setup for months after the shot-stopper admitted that the prospect of a transfer to a bigger club might appeal to him.

His more eccentric personality traits include a fear of the number 17 - with Cagliari's stadium not having a seat 17 but instead a 16b. He also plays the electric guitar in his very own rock 'n' roll band "Maurilios". However, in recent years Cellino's more extravagant exploits, particularly in relation to their stadium problems, have had serious repercussions on the club and football in Sardinia as a whole.    

The Rossoblu had several stadiums before constructing the Stadio Sant'Elia in 1970 - England played at the venue on three occasions during the 1990 World Cup. In recent years serious dilapidation at the ground has plagued the outfit. Cagliari mayor Massimo Zedda took a backseat on granting funding to repair the commune-owned stadium after reportedly being personally offended by Cellino. 

"It's a war of the titans," asserted Cellino on his prolonged dispute with the council regarding the Sant'Elia. The Rossoblu thus began planning to build an alternative venue called the Karalis Arena in 2011. It would have received vital funding should Italy have secured the 2016 European Championships. The entire project soon fell by the wayside when the tournament was awarded to France and authorities deemed the plans for the stadium would interfere with nearby Elmas airport.  

Cellino was forced to take drastic actions as conditions at the Sant'Elia worsened and a member of staff was electrocuted. He moved the entire team 500 miles away from their designated home to the complete opposite side of Italy and the Stadio Nereo Rocco in Trieste at the backend of the 2011-12 campaign. The side played several matches at the stadium with virtually no supporters present.

The prospect of an entire season on the border with Slovenia was simply unsustainable for Cagliari - with the players even threating a boycott before the 2012-13 season. In a desperate attempt to bring the team back to Sardinia, Cellino funded the building a makeshift stadium called the Stadio Is Arena. Up until that point only local amateur teams in Quartu Sant'Elena used the development, and from the onset the temporary nature of the terraces made of steel tubing caused serious safety concerns.

Brian McDermott faces the media to explain his 'sacking' Brian McDermott faces the media to explain his 'sacking'  

The Is Arenas required a safety certificate from the local authorities on a game-by-game basis and as a result many games were played behind closed doors and if it was given the all clear it was only ever able to host limited capacity of a couple of thousand. Cellino subsequently outraged authorities by openly inviting the public to attend their fixture with Roma in September 2012 despite the strict regulations. The match was ultimately abandoned and the capital club awarded all three points.

Cellino was then arrested along with the mayor of Quartu Sant'Elena Mauro Contini and public works commissioner Stefano Lilliu in February 2013 for attempted embezzlement and fraudulent misrepresentation after an investigation into the building of the Is Arenas. He was held in custody at Buoncammino prison for just over two weeks in a case that remains unresolved, while a devoted group of Cagliari fans stood outside chanting: "There's only one Cagliari president, one Cagliari president!"

In his first public appearance after being released from prison, Cellino beamed: "It's pretty good in there, anyway sooner or later you'll [journalists] all end up in prison." This term the midtable team remains in the Is Arenas with very limited attendances as renovations are being planned. 

It remains to be seen whether Cellino's purchase of Leeds will go through at all, as it's improbable he will pass the Football League's fit and proper test for owners. The arrest warrant on the charges relating to the Is Arenas called him a man of "marked criminal tendencies … capable of using every kind of deception to achieve his ends". He also had two prior criminal convictions for deceiving the Italian Ministry of Agriculture out of £7.5m in 1996 and for false accounting at Cagliari in 2001.

The confusion surrounding McDermott's position at Leeds has seemingly been resolved, but should the ownership of Leeds officially pass into Cellino's hands, fans can only expect more madness to come. 

 

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015