Jan Van Winckel, Sheffield United director and associate of the club’s co-owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, has rejected an opportunity to become Marcelo Bielsa’s assistant at Leeds according to reports in Belgium.
If correct - they have since been disputed by several well-placed sources - the claims would lend further weight to suggestions the Saudi royal remains determined to push through his takeover of the Championship team.
Prince Abdullah launched an attempt to buy Kevin McCabe’s 50 per cent shareholding in United’s parent company Blades Leisure Limited (BLL) earlier this year but an agreement is yet to be reached.
Van Winckel, who sits on the boards of both BLL and the football club itself, served as Bielsa’s assistant during the Argentine’s spell in charge of Olympique de Marseille before being appointed technical director of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation in 2015.
Bielsa is believed to be interested in succeeding Paul Heckingbottom at Leeds and, according to one Flemish website, recently made an unsuccessful attempt to lure Van Winckel to Elland Road. Others in the region dispute this interpretation of events and insist the 44-year-old, who is yet to perform his first interview since arriving at Bramall Lane, has not been approached by either Bielsa or his representatives.
Prince Abdullah met Van Winckel during his reign as Saudi Arabia’s general president of youth welfare canvasses the Belgian’s opinion on various football matters at United. Intriguingly, Prince Abdullah, whose other advisors have backgrounds in law and business, also handed Van Winckel an executive position at Beerschot Wilrijk after purchasing a stake in the Proximus League outfit.