Paraag Marathe on Leeds United: Premier League elite plan, transfer decisions explained

Leeds United vice chairman Paraag Marathe has opened up about plans for the Whites and how the club can become part of the Premier League elite.

Marathe arrived in Yorkshire when the owners of American football team the San Francisco 49ers invested in Leeds back in 2018, led by CEO Jed York.

Earlier this year, in January, York increased his stake in the club to 37%, at which point Marathe went from being a board member to being the Leeds vice chairman.

Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani remains the majority owner, though Marathe told the Sports Unlocked podcast that the Americans may take ‘an even bigger leap’ down the road.

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When asked how Leeds planned on competing at the top, Marathe explained: “We have to be better at the things that we can control. Two things come to mind.

“Number one is, all credit to Andrea on this, he went out and identified that we needed to get ourselves a world class head coach: let’s go out and spend the money and recruit the best coach possible that we can for Leeds United. Then let’s build a culture and let’s build a system around that.

“The second thing is an academy and developing players. You need to be better than everybody else – if you want to compete at the highest level – at finding your own talent from the very early ages of the academy. Kalvin Phillips is a great example of that.”

Asked how the club could keep talented homegrown players, he answered: “Something has materially changed in the air around the club, around Thorpe Arch, around Elland Road, and that is that there has been a complete culture shift, really inspired by Marcelo and by Andrea and by Angus [Kinnear, the club’s chief executive].

“We are becoming a destination, no longer just a train stop. It’s not just a place for the transient player who’s looking to add this or that to his resumé and then move onto one of the bigger clubs. We’re slowly becoming a place where people want to play, where people want to be, where people want to actually experience the best parts of their career.”

The discussion turned to money and how Leeds can compete with the richest teams.

“When somebody has a wage bill that’s three four five times that of yours it does make it harder,” he continued. “But I think, like I said earlier, you can only control what you can control and that’s building a strong culture and system that everybody believes in.”

With Leeds having been reluctant to enter the transfer market this summer, Marathe told the podcast that when the team was promoted ‘we invested a £100 million into the club’ which was planned to last for ‘a couple of years’.

“It was really about the investment that we made last year to last us a certain period of time, and actually I think we brought in five big signings was it? Yeah, five big signings and they were together on the pitch for something like five games or four games because of various injuries or things like that. So we actually haven’t even experienced the full arsenal of talent that we brought in last year.”

He then explained his four-stage plan: “The first stage was getting the club promoted. The second stage was showing that we belong in the Premier League. The third was being able to matriculate up the table. And the fourth was being able to compete for Europe or the Champions League.”

Finally, he talked about the impact of being out of the Premier League for so long, and how important it was to get fans back in the stadium watching top-flight football.

“We almost missed a whole generation of Leeds United fans being able to see their club in the Premier League. Sixteen, 17 years, plus a year that we weren’t even able to have fans. That’s almost a whole generation that was skipped. That’s too bad.”

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