Friday farce puts Leeds in turmoil

The Italian takeover of Leeds gained another member on Saturday morning as Cagliari confirmed that Andrea Tabanelli had joined the Championship club on loan.

The arrival of the unknown 23-year-old midfielder comes as the owner of his parent club, Massimo Cellino, prepares to complete a controversial 75 per cent purchase of the West Yorkshire side.

Cellino has already made his presence felt at Elland Road by overseeing the departure of manager Brian McDermott on a chaotic Friday night, which also saw club sponsors promise to walk away and the police called as fans protested against their likely new owner.

The takeover by Cellino, a 57-year-old agricultural entrepreneur who is known in Cagliari as 'The King of Corn' has not been officially completed, has not been ratified by the Football League and has a rival.

It is understood, though, that the club's wantaway owners, Gulf Finance House, favour Cellino's bid to the extent where the allowed him to remove McDermott and, according to so-far unconfirmed reports, chief executive Paul Hunt who had earlier shown them around the club.

Cellino's long-standing friend, the former Middlesbrough defender Gianluca Festa is likely to manage the team for their Saturday afternoon derby match with Huddersfield having observed training for the last week - something McDermott had objected to.

It looks as though he could have Tabanelli at his disposal too, with Cagliari saying on their official website on Saturday: "Cagliari Calcio announce that the player Andrea Tabanelli was sold to Leeds United on loan."

Press Association Sport understands that McDermott was told on Friday that he would have to accept a number of Italian players at the club, having already resisted attempts for Festa to join him in the dugout for the midweek draw with Ipswich.

It took the Serie A club to announce the news with Leeds in virtual lockdown.

The club's website has not been updated since Friday afternoon to the extent where the main story on it features McDermott talking about the Huddersfield game. The club have not been able to provide any official comment.

McDermott spoke himself briefly on Friday to thank the fans for their support, before a section of the same supporters attempted to barricade Cellino inside Elland Road as he held late-night talks. The police were called to see off the protest.

Off-the-field drama is nothing new at Leeds where financial stories have overshadowed football ones for a decade, but this one appears to be treading new ground.

Cellino, who has a previous conviction for fraud, moved into the driving seat to take over on Thursday after a consortium of club managing director David Haigh and club sponsor Andrew Flowers, named Sport Capital, collapsed after two months of exclusivity to complete a buyout.

Flowers, owner of Enterprise Insurance, is said to be on the verge of joining Flamingo Land in withdrawing his backing of the club, while it is also expected he will legally challenge Cellino's takeover.

Another group, led by former Manchester United director Mike Farnan and including ex-Leeds captain Lucas Radebe, is still hoping to speak with GFH about taking over at Elland Road, but it is understood Cellino's offer is the favoured option.

Festa was on Saturday morning attempting to meet with the Leeds players at their Thorp Arch training ground to try to offer some clarity.

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