Leeds turn to Gracia in relegation battle as former Watford boss replaces Marsch

Getty Images

Leeds United have turned to former Watford head coach Javi Gracia in their bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League, appointing the Spaniard on a "flexible contract".

Leeds have faced several setbacks in their bid to replace Jesse Marsch since sacking the American earlier this month, seeing an approach for Rayo Vallecano's Andoni Iraola blocked.

Feyenoord's Arne Slot also ruled himself out of contention, leaving interim coach Michael Skubala to oversee their last three games – a defeat at Everton following a return of one point from a double-header against Manchester United.

Defeat at Goodison Park last time out left Leeds two points adrift of safety in 19th place, and Gracia will need to make an instant impact against bottom club Southampton on Saturday.

His appointment – and involvement ahead of that match – is subject to obtaining a work permit, a Leeds statement said on Tuesday.

The vague terms around the length of Gracia's contract suggest Leeds might move again for one of their top targets in the near future.

Gracia oversaw an 11th-placed Premier League finish and an FA Cup final defeat to Manchester City in his only full season at Watford, having kept the Hornets up after his January 2018 arrival.

The 52-year-old then led Valencia to a 13th-placed finish in LaLiga in the 2020-21 campaign, before winning the Qatar Stars League in his last job with Al Sadd.

Since beating Chelsea 3-0 in August, Leeds have collected just 12 points from 20 Premier League games – the worst return in the English top flight during that span.

The Elland Road outfit are without a Premier League victory since beating Bournemouth 4-3 in early November, losing six of their last 10 games in the competition.