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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Gianni Paladini Interviews: Two Interviews With QPR Chairman Gianni Paladini


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Two Interviews With QPR's Gianni Paladini

Audio of JNETRadio's Brian Melzack Interview With Gianni Paladini

- Part 1) https://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=batch_download&send_id=832589734&email=8bf225199db7217e4481c095af701ce3

- Part 2) https://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=download&ufid=S1VDZEU1TlFveE1LSkE9PQ

- Part 3) https://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=download&ufid=S1VDZEU0WlRCTW5IRGc9PQ

A Fan "SM" Interview with Gianni Paladini

Firstly Gianni, how did the Director of Football role come about?

When Flavio took over the club, he wanted to do things the Italian way. In Italy all the clubs have both a manager and a director of football, and with my past in the sport Flavio decided that this role would be best suited for me.

So what exactly did this role involve?

My main activities were to keep Flavio informed of everything that was happening at the club. All owners of football clubs want to know what is happening, and this was no different. I helped with bringing in players alongside the manager, we would identify a player and watch them together. I would deal with the player’s contracts. I was also involved with helping with a couple of other sponsorship deals.

You mentioned player contracts, why were the likes of Agyemang & Hall given such large deals?

Agyemang was wanted by both ourselves and Charlton. At the time, Charlton were doing very well in the league and they could offer him a much better chance of Premiership football. So it was difficult for us to compete with them. They also offered him a very good contract, and we needed to make it attractive for him to come here. When he first joined he was fantastic, scoring 7 goals in 8 games it looked a very good signing. Obviously in hindsight, of course we did pay over the odds. But we needed a striker, and he fit the bill at the time.

As for Fitz Hall, he was a Premiership player with Wigan. To try and get a player to drop down a division isn’t easy. So as was the case with Agyemang we paid what we needed to get him to join us.

You also briefly touched on your past in football, can you tell us a bit more about that?

Gianni smiles. I was an agent for a number of years, and when the international players started to come across to England I was involved in a large amount of them. I think there were only around 6 agents at the time that dealt with these international deals and I was in a fortunate position. I was involved with Cantona, Gascoigne, Ravanelli, Gullit... (and continued to go through a whole list of names off the tip of his tongue – like the above, they were MASSIVE players).

I was absolutely flying at this stage. I was even involved in arranging friendly matches between European sides, it was fantastic. I made some brilliant contacts during these times. I earned extremely well from this.

I assume being an ex-agent must help when dealing with them? I hate them!

I hate them as well (laughs a lot!). You have to know how they work, but being an ex-agent has helped me. On a few occasions we have been sat down with an agent discussing a contract for a player, and you give them just the slightest bit of respect, and they walk all over you.

We had this one agent before; he came in and made very silly demands. I hit my hand on the table, and told him to get out. We knew that who we were trying to get was keen to come here. The agent then backed down abit, but I still threw him out. The other people in the room turned at me and said “Why do that?” I told them to just wait and see, within 45 minutes he will call us back. Just 20 minutes later he was on the phone, and when he came back WE were the ones that told him how it was going to be. It’s just the way that they work.

Gianni continues…

Eventually I ended up looking at a number of different clubs – Derby & Port Vale were the two that I was really interested in. Then one day I came to watch a QPR match. We were playing Wycombe away, and I instantly fell in love. He look’s with a huge grin on his face… What a fantastic club! I met Bill Power at the game, and he said to me that without investment soon QPR would end up going into administration. The next day I contacted him and invested the £700k needed to keep the club afloat. I didn’t even look at the accounts or what other debts were owed, I only realized how much financial trouble we were in a little further down the line. But we just couldn’t let that happen to this club. After being on the board for a while, I managed to get Caliendo and Dunga to come in and invest good money as well. We were extremely close to the line at times.

How close to going under were we?

I remortgaged my house to make sure that we could pay tax bills. Caliendo also invested good money into the club, as did Dunga and Bill Power. Kevin McGrath also worked tirelessly behind the scenes and did a tremendous job for us. I always made the promise to the fans that this club would never go into administration while I was here, and I would do anything to make sure that this never happened. Before the takeover from Flavio we were again close to going under, we needed someone with money to come in quickly and save us. Without the money from the Lee Cook sale the club would have gone bust, we just had to sell to give us some breathing space.

It was a very hard stage for me. Going home to my wife and trying to keep myself upbeat was horrible, and it was an extremely stressful time. Make no mistake; this would have hurt me personally as well, as I had put a lot of my money into the club. When I used to go to bed, all I could think about was my family, the press and our supporters… I would feel as if I betrayed them if the club did go into administration while I was on the board. I chased Flavio all round the world before he came in and saved the club, and the relief and emotion that went through me when it eventually was completed… unbelievable!

You mentioned Bill Power above, what is your relationship like with him now?

Bill is a great friend to me, and a truly fantastic man. My relationship with him is very very good, and we are in contact fairly regularly. He text me the other day, I was devastated to hear about his accident.

At this stage Gianni went through his phone and turned it towards me with a message on there from Bill Power. From memory I think the text was sent around 3 weeks ago…

“Hello Gianni, last night I was taken into hospital…”

I didn’t read the whole text (it was like an essay!) but I noted that the wording showed it was sent to Gianni the very next morning after Bill had been taken in.

I got back into my seat at this stage, and Gianni proceeded to shake his head left and right and said what a huge shame to hear about his ill health, he was clearly very upset about it.

I have to say I didn’t realize he was quite so close to him, I thought that they no longer got along with each other… but as the text he showed me proved, that wasn’t actually the case at all.

Just changing the subject slightly Gianni, I presume you are no longer DOF?

No there is no director of football anymore. I am chairman of QPR, this is all. I resigned from this position a couple of weeks ago now. We learned from the mistakes that we have made, and they have now been rectified, and we can push on and move forward. This is the best thing for QPR.

So will you have any say in transfers/team affairs?

None. Warnock has complete control over everything on the playing side now.

So what will your day to day activities be at QPR now? How long is your contract for?

I am here now to represent the club. I will make sure that the staff around Loftus Road are happy, and make sure things continue to keep ticking along alongside Ishan.

In football contracts are worth very little now. Technically I have a contract for another 3 years at the club, but things can change. Depending on my health I may not stay this long, or I may stay beyond 3 years. I think it’s better to view it as a rolling contract than a fixed period of time… You never know what can happen.

What was the truth behind what happened with Gino Padula? Did you pay back the money we lost?

I made a big mistake with Gino Padula, I was naïve and I take full responsibility for what happened. Gino came to me personally, and he was having some problems with his wife at the time. He wanted to purchase a property, but he needed to show a contract in order to do this. I approached Bill Power and Antonio Caliendo, and we agreed to give him this contract as a favour.

Gino ended up going and playing for Forest the following season, I think he earned slightly less for them than he did for us, but was still on good money. Then the agent comes to us with the contract we had given him demanding the money! We were left with no option but to pay back the expenses. I said that I would pay for the error, but bill and Antonio said that we were in this together, and we paid the debt to him.

I do hold my hands up though, it was me that approached them with this request for Gino, it was my mistake.

On the accounts it shows a £140k interest-free loan being credited to you? Can you explain this?

Legally I cannot discuss this. I will answer everything that I possibly can, providing that I am able. Sorry.

Sticking with the accounts, it says that your wife is a consultant for the club? What does she do?

I needed to set this up when I bought QPR. As a licensed FIFA agent you cannot own more than 10% of any football club, as it is viewed as a conflict of interests. I set up a company (he mentioned the name but I didn’t catch what it was), and my wife went down as a director of it. Where I am not English and was not a UK resident at the time, it meant I couldn’t get an English bank account, so having this company enabled me to invest in QPR. I then got rid of my FIFA license, and since the club has been taken over this no longer exists. It was just how things had to be done.

Moving onto the playing side now, how did we find Faurlin and what was paid for him?

Gianni started by asking me what I thought of him. I said that I really rated him, and still think he has been one of our best signings for a long time. Gianni nodded and agreed, and said what a huge admirer of him he is.

Faurlin came as a recommendation from a close friend I have at Inter Milan. They had been watching him for quite some time, but eventually decided that he probably wouldn’t be good enough to fit into their plans. My friend got on the phone to me and said “Get over there quickly, you HAVE to see this kid play, he would be brilliant for QPR” so that’s what we did. We went over to Argentina to watch him play, and of all the games to do it - he goes and gets himself sent off! But the talent that he had was clear to see, we knew he would be a great signing. We started talking with him, and found that his contract was due to expire at the end of that season. He verbally agreed to sign for us there and then.

As for the fee, it can rise to £3.5 million if certain clauses are met, but it wasn’t paid upfront.

Why did no players show up for the XMAS fun day at Loftus Road?

I didn’t even know that there was a fun day planned at Loftus Road, this is the first I have heard about this. It’s not something that I was involved in. On behalf of the club, I apologise for any families that were let down. Moving forward, these mistakes will not be made again.

How about player power? Is that a cause for concern?

Not at all, individual players don’t make the decisions on what managers can stay or leave QPR.

Was there not a bust up between Buzsaky and Magilton that led to the latter leaving? Taarabt even came out and criticized Paul Hart after he left the club?

There was a difference between those two of them. Jim Magilton is a superb manager, I really liked him. The team played attacking football, and when we were winning things couldn’t have been better, the football was good eh? Gianni then sighed… but when he loses things are terrible.

He does and says silly things to the players, and he lost the dressing room after the run of bad results. I think the problem was just inexperience; he can be a fantastic manager. If one player has a problem with manager, ok you can continue. But when the whole squad turn on him it’s very difficult to see any other way.

With Paul Hart (Gianni paused for a moment here)… he just wasn’t the manager for us. The football was dreadful, he would have taken us to relegation. I think fans could see this, and the board could as well. It’s true that Taarabt had problems with him, but he wasn’t the only one. The players couldn’t play the way that he wanted.

But was Taarabt not complaining about lack of first team football?

Yes, but there was more problems with Hart than just this. How many games did Taarabt start under Harford? Not much, he doesn’t get games... But he didn’t complain about him, actually he said he really liked him.

The problem with Hart was that he would get us relegated, and that showed on the pitch.

On the point of Harford, will he be staying at the club in some capacity?

No no, Warnock wants to bring his own staff with him. Harford has now left QPR.

Why was Routledge allowed to leave the club?

Routledge had been in very good form for us this season, he’s a player that I really like.

When Borough and Newcastle said that they were interested, he told us that he wanted to leave the club, so we got the best offer that we could for him. If Newcastle get promotion, the deal will be worth £2.2 million in total. We insisted on a £200k payment if they go up this season.

Will we be scrapping the loan system next season?

No team will ever win promotion by having a team full of loan players. Having a couple can be a good thing for the club, but having a team made of them doesn’t work. Believe me Warnock will not have this.

Maybe if a good player is available we may loan, that can be a very good thing. But no more than this, we need to buy players.

Who was responsible for Bent and Priskin?

I was the one that negotiated the deals for them, but Mick Harford identified the players. Bent agreed to take a £20k a week pay cut to come here, so we aren’t spending much money on him. Paul Hart really wanted to sign Quashie, so we backed him and signed Nigel.

So what is the policy for selling players now? Are we a selling club?

Warnock is our manager, he will make every decision on the playing side. If we receive an offer, Neil will be the one that decides if it will be accepted or not.

The Mittal’s will back him one thousand percent. I can’t see any players leaving us unless we decide to let them leave from now on.

A lot of fans have been crying out for us to gain academy status, will this ever happen?

We want an academy at QPR. Amit desperately wants that as well, but there are complications with trying to get it in our current situation.

What’s wrong with our current situation?

To gain an academy status, you have to have an undercover pitch within the training complex. We have the facilities to do this, but we don’t own Harlington. This makes having this pitch a big problem. If we ever moved from Harlington training ground, we could potentially lose the status that we spent so much money on trying to get. There are also issues with building this pitch on ground that doesn’t belong to us.

But Amit is keen for us to have our own youth academy, and we have been in contact with both Harlington and the FA on how we go about it. This will happen, the wheels are in motion.

Why couldn’t we hang on to Raheem Sterling?

Raheem was a very difficult situation that we were put in. He was training with the first team before he left; he had a number of training sessions with them. When you looked at him during these sessions though, he looked way out of his depth. Of course, he was only 15 years old. But you get a lot of players that are very promising at that age, and they don’t always develop as you would hope. It’s the same with Dean Parrett, he hasn’t developed as quickly as people thought that he may do.

We made a massive offer to keep Raheem at the club. We offered to provide him with a house, and support for his mother. It was the largest deal that QPR had put forward to any of its youth players in our history. Even with all the speculation he kept his feet on the ground, but his agent started to make things very difficult for him.

He got him an expensive watch, and was throwing money at him to tempt him to leave for another club. Fulham were very keen to sign him, he didn’t want to go there. He always wanted to stay here at QPR, but his agent turned his head and when Liverpool came in for him he said he wanted to leave us. So we reluctantly accepted. Agents should not be allowed to deal with players of this age, the longer that Raheem listened to him, the more he began to change. But I wish him all the best, he is a great prospect.

We do have very good young players in the youth team here though. Elvijs is very highly rated amongst the coaches, and we have one or two other youngsters that really stand out as well. I hope they can follow Antonio and push for a place in the first team sooner rather than later too.

What scouting system do we have in place?

We receive recommendations, some we will watch on video and others we will go to see ourselves. All these decisions will lie with Neil from now on though; he will decide who he chooses to bring in.

We seem to sign a fair few players from Base Soccer?

We actually have more players with a company called Stella than we do with Base Soccer. Connolly, Ramage, Antonio are with Stella. Gorkss has his father as an agent. Stewart and Cerny have private agents.

These companies like Base Soccer and Stella are just an umbrella for football agents to fall under. We don’t deal with Base Soccer, we deal with the agent. We don’t have any idea which player is with which agent until we start talks with them.

Base Soccer do have a large number of agents though, and you will find most clubs will have a number of their players represented by them.

Looking at the change in ownership now, what kind of owners do you foresee the Mittals as?

They are very keen to build relationships with the supporters. Ishan and Amit want to see Loftus Road full next season, and they are in discussions about how they can make season tickets more affordable and attractive to supporters.

They will open up the paths of communication between fans, and this will become clear over the course of the season. This will be a very happy club under their ownership. They have big things planned for us now. The club is in fantastic hands.

What are your first impressions of Ishan Aksena?

He is a very nice lad; he has been a close friend of Amit for a long time. I think that they went to school with each other as well, but it’s great to have him on board with us. He has learnt a lot about QPR in the small amount of time he has been here already. He is a little too good looking for my liking though!

So what percentage of QPR is owned by the Mittal’s? Does Flavio have any say?

I can’t discuss the percentages. The Mittal’s have the final say on all matters now. Flavio does still hold a stake in QPR, and we shouldn’t forget that he is the one that came in and saved this club when it was on its knees. It’s important to remember. But yes the Mittal’s are now running the club.

What about our debt situation? Are there major debts owned to other parties?

This is not something we need to be concerned about. The Mittal’s have all this in hand. Any loss we make is easily sustainable by them, and the passion that they have for QPR is enormous. No fan needs to worry about debts. Like I said before, the club is in fantastic hands.

Paulo Sousa -

Unfortunately, I am unable to write ANYTHING with regards to Paulo Sousa. Where there is still an ongoing legal dispute regarding his dismissal, the QPR legal team have categorically stated that NO comments/quotes are to be made until after the legalities are finalized.

I did however take the opportunity to ask some of those core questions, and I will post these online as and when I am allowed. I don’t see any harm in saying that Gianni has an enormous amount of respect for him, and wishes him well with his job at Swansea.

As I said, I will elaborate on this much further when I can.

Is there any other message for supporters you want me to pass across?

Keep up your great support.

Things haven’t worked out as we hoped for, but we all want what is best for QPR. With Neil in charge, and with Ishan and Amit, QPR is really going places now. We will be successful, big things will happen here now.

At the end of this season, Amit has an annual football tournament on the Loftus Road pitch. I want to get a team of QPR supporters to come and play against them, but they need to be careful – these are Amit’s friends. So no sliding tackles or anything!! (laughs).

We will try and get something sorted for this nearer the time, but the family feel needs to come back to the club, and this will be another small step in that direction.

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