Leeds United supporters will not have much to thank Massimo Cellino for during his tumultuous three-year spell as the owner of the Whites, with the Italian appointing and sacking no less than nine managers during his time in charge in LS11, as well as signing a total of 26 players – with many of these additions proving to be colossal wastes of money.
However, while the 66-year-old undoubtedly did more harm than good at Leeds in the grand scheme of things, the Italian did get a few calls right during his tenure at Elland Road, including the additions of players such as Liam Cooper, Stuart Dallas, Luke Ayling, Chris Wood, Pontus Jansson and Pablo Hernandez – all of whom made a positive impact on the Whites.
And, with the benefit of hindsight, Cellino’s decision to cash in on Sam Byram for a figure believed to be in the region of £4.3m back in January of 2016 has also proven to have been something of a masterstroke by the former chairman, as the right-back’s career has not exactly gone the way many were predicting at the time of his departure six and a half years ago.
Indeed, it was clear that the 66-year-old did not want to lose the services of the defender, with Cellino himself revealing that Byram had turned down multiple contract offers from Leeds amid reported interest from Arsenal, Everton and Liverpool.
Speaking about the full-back’s situation, the Italian said (via Sky Sports): “Sam Byram is the only one that maybe thinks Leeds is too small for him.
“He maybe thinks he deserves to be in a bigger team and a bigger club, and maybe he’s right. But when I hear that a player from Leeds, with his agent, that he thinks that Leeds is not big enough for him, that he wants something bigger, I felt really embarrassed.
“He didn’t sign the new contract and he won’t sign it anymore. He’s been offered a contract a few times, but he didn’t want to sign and I am deeply offended. I can’t believe that we’ve fallen out with it. I am so hurt inside that if he comes asking for a contract I would prefer to sign someone else.
“There is already a list and there is already maybe something better than him. I need to fall in love with my players. They are like my kids and I don’t want to let them go. Byram is one of those, but we don’t get on with the agent.”
However, with Bryam’s contract at Elland Road set to expire at the end of the 2015/16 campaign, and with the prospect of losing the right-back for nothing that summer, Cellino eventually accepted West Ham United’s £4.3m bid for the former England U20 international in the winter window.
And, considering the fact that Byram would make a total of just 36 appearances for the Hammers over his three-and-a-half-year stint at the London Stadium before being sold to Norwich City for a nominal £750k fee in 2019, it would very much appear as if the former Leeds owner hit the jackpot when cashing in on the defender when he did.
Indeed, it is true that the 29-year-old has got his career somewhat back on track in the time since at Carrow Road, however, with the full-back still only boasting a Tranfsermarkt valuation of £1.8m – a figure 58% less than Leeds received from his sale back in 2016 – it is nevertheless still clear to see that Cellino made the right call on the £16k-per-week defender.