By George Overhill

24th Oct, 2022 | 8:40pm

Phil Hay has questioned the San Francisco 49ers’ reluctance to take control of Leeds United at their high point with the club now in decline on and off the pitch.

The NFL franchise have an option until 2024 to become majority owners of the club, but since the end of the 2020/21 season the club have gone through one relegation battle and appear headed for another one, while time continues to pass with them waiting on the sidelines.

The Athletic’s Hay doesn’t understand their delay in taking over as the player recruitment and the stadium development flounders with Andrea Radrizzani in charge.

Speaking on The Phil Hay Show on Monday (24 October, 16min) he said: “What is happening with the West Stand? Is this squad going to keep them in the Premier League? Are they getting the recruitment right? You’d have to say at the moment ‘no’ because they’re struggling.

“It feels as if there’s a lot of things that need a reset. They had it under [Marcelo] Bielsa, they were right there, and it feels as if that has gone.

“We talk quite often about the 49ers and the option they have to buy the club, and time seems to tick by.

“The option runs until 2024 so in terms of the deadline there’s no mad rush, but it’s always confused me slightly as to why they don’t want to get their teeth into this properly… and why they didn’t want to take it on at the high water mark.

“The club was absolutely at its peak in 2021 at the end of that Covid season. There’s been a decline since then, absolutely, on the coaching front, on the playing front, there hasn’t been progress with the development of the stadium.

“They do need to work out what the vision is from here, where they’re going, what is going to happen. They do need a plan.”

Uncertainty

Fans have been questioning the capability of Leeds United to make any major developments with the club apparently stuck in limbo between Radrizzani and the potential American owners.

The question of whether the Italian will want to, or even be able to, pour money into a club that he won’t be in charge of for long won’t have been answered with much reassurance when the summer’s net spend was so small.

Radrizzani has spoken of being ready to splash out on Charles De Ketelaere [The Athletic, 5 August], but as that never happened, virtually everything spent during the transfer window was covered by the sales of star men Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips.

The assumption has been for some time that the 49ers will takeover soon enough and take United to the sunlit uplands, but once again the risk is growing that they will be buying a Championship side if they do at all.

That bullet was dodged once last season, but with valid concerns over the lack of a new left-back or striker in the summer, the Whites are pushing their luck if they are tempting that fate again.

If there is apparently no movement on the stadium development now then it is hard to escape the feeling that this window, with the club back in the top flight after so many years away, could be squandered.

It is fine to let things tick along when the going is good, but positive words about the partnership between the Leeds and 49ers set-ups isn’t really enough when things take a turn for the worse, and the club would benefit if the uncertainty was removed.

In other Leeds United news, a loan move that has rapidly turned sour is likely to be cut short in January.