Report: Cellino angered by Manchester City signing Leeds United youngster

Massimo Cellino 2

Leeds United's academy is in safe hands with Paul Hart, but a new report explains how owner Massimo Cellino previously had his doubts.

Leeds United this week brought Paul Hart back as academy director, placing the future of a goldmine of talent for the club in the safest of hands.

Hart was in charge of the academy in the 90s, and oversaw the rise of the likes of Jonathan Woodgate and Paul Robinson, who both went onto represent England.

A new report in the Yorkshire Evening Post explains that owner Massimo Cellino had doubts over investing in the academy, due to the Premier League's Elite Player Performance Plan, which limits compensation clubs can claim for young players tempted elsewhere.

It claims a deal done by Manchester City, to recruit an unnamed teenager, was almost a turning point.

The report states: "The issue which almost tipped Cellino against academy development – a perennial problem in England – was the poaching of youngsters by wealthier clubs. Manchester City recruited one from Thorp Arch earlier this year and paid £100,000 in return. United saw that as a feeble exchange and would rather have kept the player."

The youngster was believed to be under 16 and not near the Leeds first team, and indeed there are no players on Manchester City's website with Leeds or Yorkshire connections listed in their under-18 squad. The YEP adds Leeds are fearful City or even Liverpool could return for more players.

Concerns with the EPPP are not unique to Leeds. West Bromwich Albion chairman Jeremy Peace is an outspoken critic.

After seeing Izzy Brown signed by Chelsea in 2013, Peace told the Express and Star: "“We’re running at a loss if we only get £209,000 for one of our players. If four or five of these players go then what’s the point? Perhaps £2.5million would be better spent bringing in a player rather than on the academy."

That is a short-term view and the Baggies' academy remains intact, and Leeds United's also seems set to continue to thrive under Paul Hart.

Yet Cellino's frustrations are understandable, and while there is no guarantee it will not happen again, hiring the best staff possible to ground players and convince them Leeds is the best club for their future, and nowhere else, is a very wise decision.

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