- Massimo Cellino has enraged Leeds fans with his haphazard ownership
- Maurizio Zamparini went through 10 managers in five months at Palermo
- Tony Xia has made outrageous claims after taking over Aston Villa
- The Oyston family has siphoned millions from relegated Blackpool
- Napoli’s Aurelio De Laurentiis threatened to chop off an agent’s balls
- Zdravko Mamic of Dinamo Zagreb was arrested twice in last four years
Having the influence of an owner over a football club has been a reality since the sport left its amateur beginnings and took on a more professional guise.
It has not just been in modern times that owners have hit the back pages for the wrong reasons either. Brian Clough used to regularly rail against directors and those he perceived as not being footballing men. However, while some owners may clash with managers or sell the wrong player at the wrong time, there is a big difference between that and the more incredible custodians that the game has managed to bring forth.
From sacking after sacking to quoting Chairman Mao, Sportsmail has put together a guide to football’s most madcap owners.
Massimo Cellino – Leeds United
When it comes to football’s incredible owners, one man in England takes the crown. Leeds United, defined for a decade by goldfish bowls and Seth Johnsons, and Massimo Cellino were probably always fated to meet.
He was known as the ‘manager eater’ during his time at Cagliari, in which he got rid of 36 coaches in just under 23 years. Fans at Leeds were briefed about his quirks – his hatred of purple and the number 17 – but they could not have been properly prepared. Brian McDermott was dismissed before Cellino had even officially bought the club. Cellino was barred inside Elland Road as supporters gathered outside to protest, later chasing away a taxi sent to collect him.
The Italian sacked Brian McDermott, reinstated him and then dismissed him again
Leeds fans lit up Elland Road earlier this year in protest to have the Italian leave the club
McDermott was reinstated but went within six months. Since then, manager after manager has come through the door with various levels of success. Dave Hockaday, former Forest Green Rovers manager and completely out of his depth, was the first, his time probably best summed up by a farce of a pre-season tour organised in Cellino’s native Italy. The club ended up playing themselves in a friendly and recovering in a flowing stream after a training session.
To go into depth on his reign at Elland Road would take a book. A list of his indiscretions will probably suffice: manager reigns that lasted for less time than Brian Clough’s 44 days; Pie Tax, used to punish fans who protested against his regime; several charges hanging over him relating to tax cases; two Football League ownership bans; an FA charge for an alleged illegitimate payment to an agent; and, last week, being filmed offering to help business people circumvent third party ownership rules. Meanwhile, Leeds sit in mid-table.
Maurizio Zamparini – Palermo
Maurizio Zamparini is famed for being a sacker of coaches to match Cellino, but last season was impressive even by his own standards. He made 10 managerial changes in just five months. They began with Beppe Iachini in charge, but he only lasted until November before being replaced by Davide Ballardini. Ballardini got two months in the hot seat before Palermo tried to appoint Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
Unfortunately, Schelotto lacked the proper paperwork, so Bosi was put in charge in his place on a temporary basis, only to be replaced by Giovanni Tedesco. Bosi then was given the job permanently, but was sacked after losing his debut 3-1. Bosi was then replaced by Iachini, back in the dugout once more.
Palermo’s cut throat owner Maurizio Zamparini made 10 managerial changes in five months
Zamparini clearly decided that was the wrong move, sacking him again on March 10, less than a month after his return. They then avoided relegation after turning to and then dismissing Walter Novellino, bringing back Ballardini once more.
It has to be said that Zamparini has managed to improve Palermo’s lot overall, taking them from a second-tier side to a consistent place in Serie A. That is understandable when some of his threats to players are taken into account. In 2003 he attempted to motivate them to improve their results: ‘I will cut off their testicles and eat them in my salad.’
Lee Power – Swindon Town
People often suggest owners without any experience of football are one of the biggest issues in the game. Lee Power is a counterbalance to those suggestions.
Power had a career that saw him play for the likes of Norwich City, Sunderland, Bradford, Dundee and Hibs. A former forward, he went on to take on behind the scenes roles at Cambridge United and Rushden and Diamonds before taking an ownership stake at Swindon Town in April 2013.
Swindon owner Lee Poeer took over the club and briefly appointed himself as manager
Since then, a once-placid club has gone completely off the rails. Only media rights holders are allowed to speak to players and the manager – the local newspaper, the Swindon Advertiser, has been banned for an extended period. Power sacked Mark Cooper in October 2015 before putting himself in charge of the first-team. He admitted at the time that he hoped it would only be temporary as the ‘commute from Geneva is quite far’.
More recently, Power chose to charge for tickets for a rearranged match against Bristol Rovers after the original game was abandoned due to torrential rain.
Evangelos Marinakis – Olympiacos
Evangelos Marinakis attempted to buy one of the English game’s grand old clubs this summer and did not manage it.
Look away now though, Nottingham Forest fans. Marinakis has not dropped his interest in Forest, who he hopes to add to a portfolio that already contains Olympiacos, who have dominated the Greek league. They have won 18 domestic titles in 20 years.
Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis is being investigated over match fixing allegations
All sound good? Well, there are problems. While Marinakis denies the charges, UEFA are currently investigating match-fixing allegations surrounding him. He is allegedly the ringleader of a conspiracy known as The System. Greek football is falling apart as a result, with gates plummeting in the Super League.
Petros Konstantineas was put in charge of a vital game in 2012 and told what the result should be. He refused to fix the tie. A bomb then exploded in his bakery in the middle of the night. Marinakis was put on police bail over the incident, although he denies the allegations.
Tony Xia – Aston Villa
Tony Xia may feel misfortunate to appear on this list only months after taking over at Aston Villa, but he is already establishing a place among the world’s most incredible owners.
Xia swooped in at Villa after the club completed their long, protracted tumble out of the Premier League. He was immediately public with his involvement in the club and often takes to Twitter to dole out advice.
New Aston Villa owner Tony Xia once quoted Chairman Mao over his transfer strategy
Roberto Di Matteo only lasted 124 days under the Chinese businessman’s tenure
‘No. It’s not warning but just elder brother’s talk. I trust Jack can really learn and be a MAN!’ – on Jack Grealish’s latest partying controversy.
‘Quotation from Mao:We must have faith in the masses! Truly fans’ viewpoints are even better than scouting reports!’ – on his recruitment policy.
Xia also recorded a message for his players to be shown prior to their match against Preston North End last weekend. Villa lost 2-0. Roberto Di Matteo was subsequently sacked after just 124 days at the club.
Karl Oyston – Blackpool
Blackpool’s drop from the Premier League to 16th in League Two has been swift, a situation compounded by the decisions of the Oyston family, who own the Tangerines.
The club only reached the top flight courtesy of backing from club president Valeri Belokon, who has been frozen out for his contribution to that feat. Relegation was rewarded with bonuses. Owen Oyston, his father, received £11million of the Premier League windfall, while £26m more went to other Oyston-owned companies.
Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston has been accused of siphoning millions from the club
Blackpool fans have staged regular demonstrations in a bid to get rid of the Oystons
Since then the relationship between supporters and the club has hit new low after new low. Fans have been taken to court for comments made on social media and fan sites. Oyston was charged by the FA for calling fan Stephen Smith ‘a massive retard’ and an ‘intellectual cripple’ in text messages.
Supporting Blackpool has become such an unenjoyable affair that fans stopped the game against Huddersfield Town on the final day of the 2014-15 season by protesting in the centre circle.
Roland Duchatelet – Charlton
Charlton Athletic were a Premier League side within the last decade, but it would be difficult for their fans to feel much further from the promised land if they tried.
Roland Duchatelet’s arrival at the club has coincided with a huge drop in success and status. They have gone from the second-tier to the third, lost any sense of identity and managed to alienate much of their supporter base over his two-and-a-half years.
Charlton owner Roland Duchatelet has managed to upset just about everyone at the club
Popular manager Chris Powell was sacked within three months of Duchatelet’s arrival. Yann Kermogant and Dale Stephens, two players fans adored, were shipped out in favour of players from Duchatelet’s Standard Liege. Since then, managers have come and gone with incredible frequency: seven since Duchatelet took over.
Fans have protested in a number of ways: funerals for the club, disrupting matches with stress balls, boycotts and picketing sponsors’ events. A statement on the club’s website accused those fans of wanting the club to fail. Take the positives though, Charlton fans – similar protests at Standard Liege forced Duchatelet to sell.
The Venky’s – Blackburn Rovers
Under the stewardship of Jack Walker, Blackburn Rovers, managed to win the Premier League. It was the perfect example of a successful person giving back to his community and bringing joy to his boyhood football club.
The Venky’s have the exact opposite. Shortly after arriving at the club they dismissed Sam Allardyce, who had consistently secured top flight football. They replaced him with Steve Kean. Blackburn swiftly dropped out of the top flight and have not looked like making it back up since.
Brothers Balaji Rao (left) and Venkatesh Rao (right), Directors of Venky’s, disdn’t appear to have a clear understanding of football
Blackburn fans were quick to vent their frustration as they club were relegated
It’s not hard to understand why, given the way the club has been run behind the scenes. There have been constant questions over the role played by football agent Jerome Anderson during their first few months in charge. Long-serving chairman John Williams left the club due to his influence. Anderson’s 21-year-old son signed a deal to play for Rovers.
Other examples startle. When Ruben Rochina was signed by the club for £370,000 in 2011, £1.65million was paid to an associate of Anderson’s.
Aurelio De Laurentiis – Napoli
A film producer known for his film Il Petomane (The Fart Maniac), Aurelio De Laurentiis was never likely to be the most placid of football club owners.
Napoli have actually been a well-run club during his time in charge, challenging at the top end of Italian football after being bought while in the third-tier. However, the owner’s statements have run in direct contrast with that success.
Napoli’s film producer owner once threatened to chop off an agent’s balls
For example, when a number of his players were English sides, De Laurentiis warned anyone seeking a move: ‘They need to understand this: the English live badly, eat badly and their women do not wash their genitalia. To them, a bidet is a mystery.’
When Ezequiel Lavezzi was considering leaving the club, he said: ‘If [Alejandro] Mazzoni (his agent) starts being stupid then I will chop his balls off.’
Finally, targeting the game’s authorities: ‘Europa League? I don’t give a s**t about this competition. Thanks to [Sepp] Blatter and [Michel] Platini it is not worth anything.’
Zdravko Mamić – Dinamo Zagreb
Zdravko Mamic was first introduced to Dinamo Zagreb through the Bad Blue Boys, who are the club’s ultras, named after a 1983 Sean Penn film.
A controversial beginning, but surely Mamic would settle down once he was involved in the club? Not exactly. He became infamous for his hostile behaviour towards journalists, regularly threatening them with violence.
Zdravko Mamic was a former ultra who has been arrested twice in the last four years
Those Bad Blue Boys who helped him into his position in the first place have become less and less interested in him running Dinamo, to the extent that they entered a press conference in December 2011 to confront him for his ‘mismanagement’ of the club.
He has been arrested twice over the last four years. The first time came after he verbally attacked the Croatian Minister of Sports, Science and Education Zeljko Jovanovic, accusing him of hating ‘everything that starts with a Croatian’. In November 2015 he was also arrested for transfer irregularities, later resigning as chairman and becoming an advisor instead.