The San Francisco 49ers could complete a takeover of Leeds United before 2024 while putting up the cash for a major deal in the transfer market, says Adam Pope.
The NFL franchise has an option to become full owners of the club, taking over from Andrea Radrizzani, for at least £400million in the next two years, and the BBC Leeds reporter can see that be triggered by a marquee player signing.
Citing the failed move for Charles De Keterlaere in the summer, with £34million on the table from Elland Road despite an apparent lack of money to spend later in the window, he feels that the 49ers could be willing to fund a such a deal in the future in exchange for a greater share of the club ownership.
Appearing on Leeds United – The View’s YouTube channel [23 September, 33mins] Pope said: “At the moment they own 44%. It was interesting when we got to the transfer scenario around De Ketelaere, who was going to stump up that money?
“Was it going to be Radrizzani? Was it going to be the 49ers? Or was it going to be a mix of the two?
“If I was the 49ers and that deal was on I’d say, ‘We’ll buy him, but I want a bit more equity in the club’, and tip it over the edge into an ownership scenario, or a majority ownership scenario.
“I see that happening. And I could envisage it happening even before 2024.”
If the takeover is inevitable, as all the signals continue to suggest it is, and it is going to require the Americans to take control for the spending power in the transfer market to really be boosted then fans will be hoping this happens quickly.
It is feasible to suggest that such a dynamic was on the table this summer and had it been possible to sign De Ketelaere, who always wanted AC Milan and eventually got the move, big changes would have happened already.
Pope doesn’t expect Radrizzani to depart the scene entirely yet but it does look like he will no longer be majority owner before long.
Despite a strong start to this season, aided by performances from new signings such as Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams, and Luis Sinisterra, it was only a matter of months ago that the club nearly returned to the Championship.
At the same time it was only the big-money sales of star men Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips which funded the transfer haul, so long-term safety on the current level of investment is not certain.
Therefore supporters will be growing impatient at the continued delay, as it would be better to push on from a position of relative strength.
There are fears that increased ownership from the US are a danger to the English football pyramid, with Gary Neville particularly vocal in light of the Glazer family’s ownership of Manchester United and his suspicions around Todd Boehly at Chelsea.
In theory that is a valid concern, especially with the 49ers so used to a franchise model in a locked league such as the NFL, but American ownership doesn’t automatically lead to fundamental changes to the game and it appears there is set to be a new one at Elland Road sooner rather than later.