Leeds plan summer fire sale of key men

Leeds United have hired a leading agent to sell their best players ­ and set up deals before the end of the season.

The club's new managing director, David Richmond, has instructed Philip Morrison to find buyers for players as the club's new official negotiator. The decision is likely to puzzle and infuriate supporters, and leave leading players such as Alan Smith, Paul Robinson and Mark Viduka wondering what is going on at Elland Road.

News that an agent has been brought in to sell them has already been conveyed to Smith, Robinson and Viduka. Richmond has signed the letter of approval that allows Morrison to find buyers for their most valuable assets in case there is a need to raise money quickly.

It is the latest panic move by Leeds, who had previously put Geoffrey Richmond, David's father, in the role of football consultant until he left last week.

In the fax, sent to clubs and fellow agents, Leeds reveal that Morrison's arrangement with them runs until 16 May, the day after the end of the Premiership season. So, for Morrison to do his job, he will have to have transfers in place while Leeds are still fighting for Premiership survival. The players cannot be transferred before that date, but deals could be set up by Morrison who would be paid his commission from the moves.

Morrison did a similar job at Sunderland when they were relegated from the Premiership last season, and he helped find new clubs for a number of players. There should be no shortage of takers for the Leeds stars Smith, Robinson and Viduka. Robinson's move to Tottenham is in place and it only needs final agreement on the fee, while Newcastle United head the hunt for Smith.

Leeds must also consider the demands of Richmond, who wants a pay-off from the club after helping them avoid administration.

The former "consultant" to the new chairman, Gerald Krasner, wants a golden handshake in the latest twist to his controversial career. Richmond's solicitors revealed that he expected a pay-off after helping the club through their troubles before he left last week.

The former Bradford City chairman was declared bankrupt with debts of around £3.3m, but he argued that the money he wanted from Leeds would help pay off some of that sum. Richmond's role at Elland Road was only made official on 15 April when Leeds informed clubs and agents that he was now their football consultant in charge of transfers and contracts. A few days later, however, Richmond left for "health and personal reasons" ­ an excuse that covered up rows within the club about his role.

Richmond claimed at his bankruptcy hearing that he is due a severance payment. The solicitor Hugh Jory said his employment had only recently been terminated "and there are now discussions about the package that will ensue from that".

Leeds fans may be perplexed that Richmond, who claimed to be in an unpaid advisor's role, is now looking for a pay-day at a time when the club is still in debt and facing the loss of their best players.

Ray Fell, the chairman of the Leeds United supporters club, struck a forgiving note, however, saying: "There was a tone of resentment among fans about him coming after what had happened at Bradford, a fear of lightning striking twice.

"A large number of fans were unhappy, the chairman tried to allay that by saying he is putting nothing into the club and taking nothing out, so all we can do now is thank him for his services and wish him all the best with his private life."

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