In October 2019, Andrea Radrizzani told The Times that finance from Qatar Sports Investments could put Leeds on a pedestal with Manchester City.
Extra assets from Middle Eastern shores has long been a subject of interest at Elland Road but despite Radrizzani being close with QSI chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi things haven’t materialised beyond a general chat in a restaurant.
Instead, the Leeds owner looked towards American shores to secure extra money for the football club. The interested party happened to be the San Francisco 49ers.
Their attraction to Leeds has been well documented and they were already involved in the financial aspects of the football club. Though, they will have even more power now after a reported £50m investment from America was gleefully accepted by Radrizzani.
As a result, Paraag Marathe – the 49ers Enterprises President – has become the vice-chairman at Leeds and in the process, secured 37% of the club.
It’s a move that has the potential to be game-changing for Leeds. Their finances might not stretch to the degree that QSI have ploughed cash into Champions League runners-up PSG but it could help take Leeds to a new level.
But why is that? Well, the 49ers and Leeds share similar thoughts and ideas. Marathe has helped take the San Francisco 49ers from a struggling NFL franchise to one that reached the Super Bowl in 2020.
Speaking to ESPN this week, Leeds’ new vice-chairman said: “Leeds today reminds me of the 49ers 15 years ago. Both teams with a great fanbase and history. The 49ers had such great success in the ’80s and ’90s, like Leeds in the ’70s, and both were struggling a little bit on and off the pitch and the 49ers were playing, at the time, at the oldest un-renovated stadium in the NFL.”
Marathe consequently helped his NFL franchise to build a new stadium and in his words, it “completely transformed” the entire business and team. He reveals that’s something he wants to do at Leeds and that follows a similar tune to Angus Kinnear.
The Leeds managing director previously revealed that he had ambitions of extending Elland Road but it looks as though the club’s new investors could take that to a level.
Marathe added: “We have the right people, the expertise and the playbook blueprint to be able to intellectually grow our broader organisation and we wanted to go into the Premier League and use that expertise to be able to help another club grow in the same way that we grew the 49ers from a bottom-tier franchise to a team which came a few minutes short of winning the Super Bowl last year.”
Leeds are certainly an ambitious club and they’ve already achieved great things under Marcelo Bielsa. His tactical nuances coupled with an adept hierarchy could lead to incredible achievements.
“We want to be in the Premier League for the next 2-3-4-5 years and beyond and then it’s qualify for the Europa League and then the Champions League, to be competing with the best clubs,” Marathe remarked.
Of course, those could be famous last words but as the vice-chairman says, Leeds already have the infrastructure in place for success.
If a fancy new stadium is built, it will only become an even greater lure for new players. The Whites have already been in the Champions League before – it’s time to bring those days back.
If they achieve that, the 49ers will undoubtedly have played a considerable part in making it happen.