Leeds United

Leeds United

15th Premier League | 3-4-2
  • Goals For
    10th
    14 GF
  • Assists
    8th
    9 A
  • Shots
    3rd
    103 Shots
  • Saves
    10th
    25 SAV
  • Everton vs Leeds LIVE: Latest score, goals and updates from Premier League fixture today
    The Independent

    Everton vs Leeds LIVE: Latest score, goals and updates from Premier League fixture today

    Follow all the action as the Toffees take on Marcelo Bielsa’s side

  • Remembering when Maradona almost signed for Sheffield United... and Arsenal... and Spurs... and Leeds
    The Telegraph

    Remembering when Maradona almost signed for Sheffield United... and Arsenal... and Spurs... and Leeds

    The history of football is littered with sliding-doors moments, of points where possibility divided in directions, the significance of which has only grown over the years. And of all the what-ifs in the game, few can touch what happened in 1978 when Sheffield United were on the brink of signing Diego Maradona. Just imagine how different history might have been had the greatest footballer of his and many a generation become a fixture at Bramhall Lane. Both for the player and, more tellingly, for the club. It happened when Harry Haslam, United’s then manager, went on a scouting trip to Argentina, just after they had won the World Cup on home soil. His initial plan was to sign Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricky Villa, who were looking for European opportunity. But, with United in the second division, he couldn’t match their financial aspirations, and they went to Tottenham instead. Ardiles recommended Haslam instead take a look at a 17 year old who he — and many in the country — thought should have been included in the World Cup winning squad. Accompanied by the United director John Hassle, off Haslam went to watch Argentinos Juniors in action. And almost from the moment he saw the diminutive magician caress the ball, he recognised this was something special. The next day, a transfer deal for £150,000 was agreed between the two clubs, personal terms were sorted with the player’s already sizable entourage (from an early age, he was surrounded by those who saw him as a pay day), and the United representatives returned to their hotel convinced that the finest young player either of them had ever seen was on his way to Yorkshire. However, a couple of days later, just as Haslam was about to set off for the airport where he was planning to meet the player and bring him to England, there was a knock on his door. He opened it to see an army officer, who informed him that if Maradona were to leave the country, the military junta would require some financial lubrication. It seemed the officer wanted a fee of the same size as the transfer sum. Haslam informed Hassle who, uncomfortable with the idea of paying what was effectively a bribe, decided not to proceed with the deal. And thus was the biggest what-if in the club’s history born. But that was not the end of Haslam’s dealings with Maradona. In March 1982, when he was no longer associated with United, he received a call from Terry Neil, then manager of Arsenal, who asked if he might be able to broker a deal to take Maradona to Highbury. The man of the people who became a legend The player was by then 21 and a seasoned international. And his representatives were known to be keen to monetise his reputation with a move to Europe. Haslam watched him play for Argentina against Czechoslovakia in Mar del Plata and after the game arranged to meet him in a local restaurant. He got a hint of the player’s growing renown when Maradona walked in and everyone in the place stood up to applaud. The dinner went well, the player was enthused by the idea of joining a club of Arsenal’s stature, a deal was done. This time no bribe was required, and Haslam returned to England with all the necessary documentation: Maradona would become an Arsenal player that summer, after the World Cup in Spain. But again the military intervened. Four days after he got back, a military task force was dispatched to the South Atlantic, Britain was at war with Argentina and the deal was finished. Maradona went to Barcelona instead, Arsenal signed Charlie Nicholas and another what-if seized the imagination. But still, England could not forget Maradona. After his sumptuous performance in Mexico he was by now the most feted player in the world. In the summer of 1986, the leading agent Jon Smith was visiting his client Ardiles when a call came in. It was Maradona, who explained that he was looking for someone to help negotiate the next stage of his career after Napoli. Ardiles recommended Smith, and a deal was struck. “I suggested he come here for a visit and he really liked London,” Smith recalls. “At the time he was public enemy No 1 because of the Hand of God, but he was brave enough to show his face. I took him to an England game, and afterwards he met the team. He shook hands and kind of said sorry.” Maradona, Pele or Lionel Messi - who is football's greatest ever player? In 1987, Smith thought he might put Maradona’s notoriety to more public test. He negotiated a substantial £100,000 fee (more than the average annual salary in the First Division at the time) for his client to appear in the Football League’s 100th anniversary match at Wembley, where he was set to play for the Rest of the World side under Terry Venables’s management. Before the game Venables appealed to the crowd not to dismiss him for his Mexico indiscretions. His efforts fell on deaf ears. Many in the 61,000 at Wembley that night appeared to have gone along solely to boo a pantomime villain and the derision echoed round the stadium. Smith, though, reckons Maradona barely noticed. “I don’t have any bad memories of that trip, and I think he enjoyed it. He had a great sense of humour. I remember when he turned up at the airport he got absolutely mobbed by the media. His English was so bad, I answered questions on his behalf. When we were driving away to the hotel, he said to me: so tell me, what did I just say?” And it was certainly not the booing that Smith reckons prevented his client from signing for English clubs. “He wasn’t against the idea. Naples was a goldfish bowl and he really enjoyed escaping to London, where he was a little more anonymous. Plus he was so physically strong he had no fears about managing the English game. I think if the Premier League was around as it is now, he would have played here for sure. But at the time, Serie A was the place to be, both financially and in terms of competition.” Not that that stopped a wily operator like Smith dropping hints that Maradona might be on his way. “Occasionally when we needed commercially to heighten his presence in the English market, we’d slip out a suggestion he was looking to come here. He never really was, but it was amazing the response.” In the late Eighties, a flurry of headlines insisted that both Birmingham City and Leeds were on the brink of signing him. “There was never any truth in it,” admits Smith. “The thing with Leeds was a joke. It was 1987, I was having lunch with Bill Fotherby, the then chairman who was a sharp marketing guy. He said: any chance of Diego coming to Leeds? I said: well, you can never say never. I was kidding him. But when I got back to my office I took a call from The Yorkshire Post: we hear Maradona might come to Leeds.”

  • Everton, ‘Dirty Leeds’ and the infamous 1964 battle of Goodison Park
    The Independent

    Everton, ‘Dirty Leeds’ and the infamous 1964 battle of Goodison Park

    The two clubs meet this weekend 56 years on from the game which gave Leeds a nickname which stuck