Massimo Cellino’s reign as chairman of Leeds United has seen a number of players arrive at Elland Road.
Many of those have been from Cellino’s home nation with Marco Silvestri, Tommaso Bianchi, Giuseppe Bullusci, Dario Del Fabro and Mirco Antenucci all signed by the Italian in his first full season (2014-15).
These were six virtual unknowns to Whites’ fans, who were unsure what to expect from players who were not used to the style and speed of English football. However, it became apparent straight away that one man was not going to take long to adapt, as striker Mirco Antenucci had all the assets needed to be successful in this country. Speed, tenacity and a willingness to work for the team are just a few attributes that Leeds supporters appreciate, and in the space of a couple of months, Antenucci became a fans’ favourite.
In his first season at Elland Road he scored 13 goals in all competitions and 10 in the Sky Bet Championship – finishing as the club’s top scorer. He played under three different managers during his first season but was picked the majority of the time by all three. The major blip to this came around March and April time when the Italian was left out of the side on several occasions. This was because the then head coach, Neil Redfearn, was put under pressure to leave him out as he had a clause in his contract which meant he would be given an extra year if he scored 12 league goals in his first season. This was put to bed at the end of the season and it was announced Antenucci would be staying at the club for the 2015/16 campaign.
That decision has proved to be a good one in the opening six weeks of the new campaign as the Italian has shown his worth to the side. This hasn’t come easy though with the 31-year-old having to work for his place in the side under new head coach, Uwe Rosler. The German manager left him on the bench for the season opener against Burnley, but with 20 minutes to go he was brought on and made an instant impact scoring a fantastic long range goal.
Despite his positive effect on the team in that game, he has still been in and out of the side with Rosler favouring a 4-3-3 formation, putting new £3 million man Chris Wood down the middle with Stuart Dallas and Sam Byram on the wings. This has meant that Antenucci has had to transform himself into a winger when he has played, something he has done well. He started away against Bristol City in the third game of the season, scoring from the penalty spot, and most recently rescued a point for the club on Saturday as he came off the bench against Bretford to score a superb equaliser.
The question remains, should Antenucci be starting every week? There is no doubting he injects life into the team and has a great desire to do what’s best for his teammates. He has taken on and thrived at the challenge of playing as a winger in his new number 7 shirt, which has surely impressed his manager. He faces more competition for a place in the side with the recent signing of DR Congo winger Jordan Botaka, but for me Antenucci has earned a spot in the starting line-up and should be starting every week.
He got 10 league goals last season and I believe if he starts every week he can improve on that in this campaign, even if playing on the wing. So I urge you Uwe Rosler to find a place in the team for our man Mirco, because Leeds United is a club full of passion and a hunger for success, something Antenucci shares to the core.