Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino claims that the Championship club’s former captain, Ross McCormack, wanted to leave Elland Road back in January.
The 27-year-old ended his four-year spell with the Yorkshire outfit earlier this month when he joined second tier rivals Fulham for a fee that Cellino says was shy of the £11m mark.
McCormack scored 29 goals for Leeds during 2013-14, and his departure seems to have rankled the former Cagliari custodian, who admitted he wanted to keep the Scotsman before adding that the player was close to rejoining Cardiff City during the last transfer window.
“I didn’t want to sell McCormack because for me, he was the best player we had,” Cellino was quoted as saying by Football365.com.
“I was hoping to keep a player who guaranteed us at least 15 goals and McCormack would do it.
“I’m very unhappy because McCormack decided to go for another experience. He tried to walk away in January to Cardiff and was already sold for £2m but I turned it down.
“He wanted to go away for a lot of reasons he told me, his kids, his wife. He had just signed a three-year contract and he was happy with the wages and it was good wages.
“But they offered him better wages and like I told you, I was not happy to sell. I said ‘OK if you want him, give me £10m.’ I said it because I was sure no one would offer it, so it was a good excuse.”
Cellino, who in April was allowed to purchase a 75% stake in Leeds despite two prior criminal convictions, including false accounting at Cagliari, was also disappointed by what he perceived as a poor attitude in pre-season training from McCormack, and would have preferred selling him to a current Premier League club.
“When it came to pre-season McCormack did not come because he said he was feeling sick. There was a problem with his family and I was really disappointed. In his mind he was already gone,” he added.
“And then I worked a lot on a long deal and we closed McCormack for £10,750,000.
“That is important money for the club. But, it was not in our budget to sell. I didn’t like that another side from the Championship came to take our best player. If it was a side from the Premier League I wouldn’t mind.”