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Leeds confirm Javi Gracia as new manager before crunch game with Southampton

Leeds have confirmed that Gracia will be in charge for the crucial home match against Southampton on Saturday

Sports Staff
Friday 24 February 2023 12:39 GMT
Javi Gracia has been named as new Leeds boss
Javi Gracia has been named as new Leeds boss (PA)

Leeds United have appointed former Watford boss Javi Gracia as their new manager.

Gracia replaces Jesse Marsch after a turbulent search that saw the Premier League club miss out on several of their top targets, and will be in charge for the key meeting with fellow strugglers Southampton this weekend after his work permit was confirmed.

Leeds are 19th in the Premier League table and without a win in 10 matches. Defeat in the weekend’s relegation six-pointer with Everton saw the club fall into the bottom three and Gracia will now be tasked with keeping the Elland Road club up over the final 15 games of the campaign.

Leeds announced the news in a statement on their official website, and tweeted: “Leeds United is delighted to announce Javi Gracia’s visa has been confirmed, along with a number of new additions to the existing backroom staff.”

Earlier in the week the club had said that “the experienced 52-year-old has agreed a flexible contract at Elland Road”.

The Spaniard was in charge of Watford between January 2018 and September 2019. During that time he led the Hornets to safety and reached the FA Cup final but was sacked following a poor start to the following season. He has since taken jobs at Valencia and Qatari club Al Sadd.

Under-21s boss Michael Skubala had been placed in temporary charge at Elland Road, overseeing two Premier League games in the space of five days against Manchester United – a 2-2 draw and a 2-0 home defeat – and a 1-0 loss at Everton.

Leeds’ hunt for Marsch’s replacement had met with several setbacks. Talks with former Ajax boss Alfred Schreuder broke down, Rayo Vallecano blocked a move for Andoni Iraola and Arne Slot opted to stay at Feyenoord after he was approached.

Javi Gracia is the new Leeds manager (PA)

Carlos Corberan signed a new contract with West Brom, while it was reported in Argentina that former River Plate boss Marcelo Gallardo ruled himself out of the running.

Leeds, two points from safety, are winless in their previous 10 league matches. Their last top-flight victory was on 5 November and they will go bottom if they lose to Southampton this weekend.

The club’s full statement read: “Leeds United are delighted to announce Javi Gracia’s visa has been confirmed. Following this, we are pleased to unveil a number of new additions to the existing backroom staff at Thorp Arch.

“Zigor Aranalde joins as an assistant coach, having served under Gracia in spells at Watford, Valencia and Al Sadd. Aranalde enjoyed a long playing career as a full-back in Spain with Eibar, Sevilla and Albacete, then in England with Walsall, Sheffield Wednesday and Carlisle United.

“Mikel Antia also arrives at the club as an assistant coach, having played alongside Gracia at Real Sociedad. The former centre-back, also enjoyed stints at Valladolid, Elche and Braga before moving into coaching and also has experience in England with Newcastle United.

“Juan Jose Solla is the final new recruit to the backroom staff, having worked alongside Gracia throughout his managerial career. Most recently working at French Ligue 1 side Marseille, he joins the Whites as fitness coach.

“Michael Skubala, who oversaw our two games against Manchester United and the match against Everton, will also remain in the first team setup.

“Paco Gallardo will now take charge of the Under-21s side, replacing Skubala at the helm.”

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