EXCLUSIVE: Leeds need to improve on Burnley’s final-day result to remain top and former skipper Dominic Matteo has explained which players are most likely to leave the club if they go down
Dominic Matteo knows how it feels when the relegation hurricane sweeps through a club.
He was part of the firesale when Leeds last went under in 2004, offloading their best players to cut costs. Matteo was sold to Blackburn despite wanting to stay and was followed through the Elland Road exit by stars including Alan Smith, Mark Viduka, Paul Robinson, James Milner and Danny Mills.
Matteo fears Leeds could lose their biggest names if they don’t beat Sunday’s decline and they need to improve on Burnley’s result or their two-year stint in the Premier League is over. Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips are attracting interest from Barcelona and Manchester City and Matteo says they could leave if Leeds are relegated.
The former Leeds captain told Mirror Sport: “If you’re realistic, it could happen. You have to be realistic, if they were relegated or even stayed in 17th place, would a top player be happy with that? Regardless of whether Leeds stay up or not, they could lose players. That is the nature of the animal. I’m sure other clubs are interested in their best players because they have some good talent there, including among young players. If they lost Raphinha and Phillips, would more follow? That happened in my time.”
Leeds meet Brentford away tomorrow while Burnley are at home against Newcastle and Matteo says the tension will be unbearable for Jesse Marsch’s players. He still recalls the fear he felt to stay on top before beating Arsenal in 2003, even though it delayed their fate by just 12 months. “We were lucky to get away with that late goal at Highbury in 2003,” he said. “It was a very similar feeling to what the players are going through right now.
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“I just couldn’t sleep the night before this game. I was awake the whole night. You go through all the scenarios in your head, you go through all the emotions before even playing the game. Even as a seasoned player, I’ve still gone through all that. I will never forget that feeling of relief when we stayed up, but the following year came the descent. It’s not a good memory to be dismounted. You never want that on your CV but it happened and to be honest it didn’t really feel right until Leeds got back into the Premier League.
Matteo, 48, still believes Leeds can pull off a final-day escape attempt at Burnley’s expense. “I never thought I would be relegated to Leeds because I felt we had a strong enough team,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean anything, we know how brutal the Premier League is. Our experience has shown that taking your foot off the pedal in the Premier League only penalizes you.
“We’ve seen that at Leeds this season and it’s been a difficult time. When we stayed up in 2003 we just found a way to win and that’s what Leeds have to do on Sunday, just find a way. I don’t know how, but they have to find a way. I said at the start of the season that Burnley could go down and I stand by it. It’s a difficult situation but I think Leeds could just survive.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/leeds-dominic-matteo-relegation-sale-27022697 Dominic Matteo names players Leeds will lose if they are relegated from the Premier League