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Overview

Marcelo Alberto Bielsa Caldera (American Spanish: , [a]nicknamed Loco Bielsa ,[a] meaning Madman Bielsa; born 21 July 1955) is an Argentine professional football manager and former player who played as a defender. He is the head coach of Championship club Leeds United.

Bielsa has managed several football clubs and also the national teams of Argentina and Chile. He developed his career as coach of Newell’s Old Boys, leading that team to several wins in the early 1990s, then moved to Mexico in 1992, briefly coaching Club Atlas and Club Amrica. Bielsa returned to Argentina in 1997 to manage Vlez Sarsfield. With Chile, he achieved cult status due to the improved results of the national team under his leadership.[1] His personality and gestures during his stint in Chile captured the attention of media and unleashed a series of minor controversies both in sports and politics. He had a two year-spell in Spain at Athletic Bilbao between 2011 and 2013, leading them to domestic and continental cup finals in the first season, though losing both. On 8 August 2015, Bielsa resigned as coach of Marseille after just over a year at the French club.

On 15 June 2018, he was appointed manager of Leeds United.

Contents

Early years and playing career

Bielsa played as a defender in Newell’s Old Boys’ First Division team, but retired when he was 25.[2]

Managerial career

In 1980, after retiring from playing in football, Bielsa decided to start a career as a football manager. His first job was coaching the youth divisions of Newell’s. In 1990, he was given the task of managing their first team, where he would go on to win the 1990 Torneo Apertura and the 1990-91 Torneo Integracin, defeating Boca Juniors on penalties. Bielsa managed the squad that competed in the final of the 1992 Copa Libertadores, losing to So Paulo on penalties. Weeks after the Libertadores defeat, Bielsa and Newell’s won the 1992 Torneo Clausura.[3][4] After a period in Mexico, he returned to Argentina and won another league title – the 1998 Clausura – while coaching Vlez Sarsfield.[5]

Argentina national team

In 1998, Bielsa was given the job of manager at Spanish La Liga side Espanyol, but he soon left after being offered the management of the Argentina national team later that year, taking over after a four-year period by Daniel Passarella as manager. At the 1999 Copa Amrica, Argentina were beaten 3-0 by Colombia in a game where Argentina forward Martin Palermo missed three penalties and Bielsa was sent off. On Bielsas post match reaction Tim Vickery of the BBC writes,

In the press conference he sat staring into space, refusing to make eye contact with anyone – his usual stance. He was asked what he had made of the referee’s performance. If the question was predictable, the answer was anything but. “One doesn’t usually have the habit of commenting on referees, but” he said, leaving everyone to believe he would continue with a rant about a joker running amok with a whistle. Instead he proceeded with, “but in respect of my expulsion, the referee was absolutely correct because I protested in an ill mannered form.”[6]

Argentina won the qualification group for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, but did not progress through the first knockout round at the tournament.[7] Despite this, Bielsa stayed on his position as Argentine manager. The Albicelestes were runners-up in the 2004 Copa Amrica[8] and won the 2004 Olympic Games‘ gold medal.[9] With the latter, his team became the first Latin American team to win the Olympic title in football since 1928 (when Uruguay beat Argentina in the final), the first Argentinian Olympic gold medal in 52 years.[10] Bielsa, however, resigned at the end of 2004, being succeeded by Jos Pkerman.[11]

Chile national team

Bielsa at a press conference in 2009


Under Bielsa’s guidance, the Chile national team underwent many positive and negative historic firsts. For the first time in its history, Chile was able to earn a point playing Uruguay away in Montevideo. Chile also suffered their worst defeat ever when playing at home during qualifiers losing 3-0 against Paraguay. This historic low was repeated with a Chile loss of 3-0 against Brazil, which also marked the first home loss against Brazil in a qualification game in nearly 50 years. On 15 October 2008, however, Bielsa masterminded a 1-0 win over his native Argentina, Chile’s first win ever over Argentina in an official match; Argentina’s loss prompted the resignation of its coach Alfio Basile.[12]

Chile soundly beat Peru 3-1 in Lima, a location where they last won in 1985. Bielsa then led Chile to a 2-0 win at the Defensores del Chaco Stadium against hosts Paraguay, obtaining an away triumph on this location for the first time in almost 30 years. The team continued the road to the 2010 World Cup with a victory over Bolivia, 4-0. After a 2-2 tie against Venezuela in Santiago, and travelling to Brazil to lose 2-4, Chile finally achieved qualification to the World Cup after defeating Colombia 4-2, a result that was also Chile’s first ever away win against the Colombians.

By helping Chile qualify for a World Cup after two tournament absences, Bielsa attained great popularity there. His appointment brought about visible changes in the Chilean set-up, with the fast-tracking of young talents and a more attacking mindset away from home.[13] Due to the rumors that Bielsa would not continue to lead Chile after finishing their campaign at the World Cup, Chilean fans campaigned for him to remain as coach, with the movement titled “Bielsa is NOT leaving!”[14] Chile reached the round of 16 of the World Cup, where they were eliminated by Brazil.[15] On 2 August 2010, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, president of Chile’s Asociacin Nacional de Ftbol Profesional, announced that Bielsa would remain with the Chile team until 2015.[16] Bielsa, however, stated that he would leave his position if Jorge Segovia was elected as President of the Chilean Football Board.[17] He followed through on this threat, despite Segovia’s election being annulled, and resigned in February 2011.[18]

Athletic Bilbao

Bielsa as Athletic Bilbao manager in 2012

On 3 October 2011, Bielsa, a devout Roman Catholic, visited the Poor Clares of Guernica, Spain, alongside his wife. He wanted them to pray for his team, which they have done ever since.[19] The players began to adjust to the changes as the season progressed, and following an away victory at local rivals Real Sociedad. Athletic Bilbao produced a good run of Autumn form which included wins over Paris Saint-Germain, Osasuna and Sevilla, as well as credible draws with Valencia and Barcelona, then only to drop points at home to newly promoted Granada.[20] The team also finished top of their UEFA Europa League group and defeated Lokomotiv Moscow in the last 32.

Athletic then drew Manchester United and in impressive style won 3-2 in the first leg at Old Trafford, going on to knock them out of the tournament with a 2-1 victory at home. In the quarter-final, they went to Schalke 04 and won the first leg 4-2, despite being 2-1 down after a Ral brace on 72 minutes. Athletic drew the second leg against Schalke 2-2, going through to the semi-finals with a favourable aggregate score of 6-4 to face Sporting Clube de Portugal.[21][22][23]

After Athletic lost the first leg of the semi-final 2-1 in Lisbon, they overturned this result in the return leg and ran out 4-3 winners on aggregate when Fernando Llorente scored the winner in the 88th minute. This set up a match with Atltico Madrid in an all-Spanish Europa League final.[24][25][26] Athletic, however, would lose 3-0 in the final, played on 9 May at the Arena Naional, Bucharest.[27][28][29] On 25 May 2012, Athletic also lost the Copa del Rey Final against Barcelona at the Vicente Caldern Stadium, falling 3-0.[30]

The 2012-13 season was a major disappointment for Athletic: the sale of key midfielder Javi Martnez to Bayern Munich, and striker Fernando Llorente being frozen out of the club over contract disagreements, led to the Lions’ performances faltering. After finishing only in 12th place in La Liga, on 7 June 2013 Athletic’s president revealed that Bielsa would not be offered a new contract. When it expired on 30 June 2013, he left the club.

Marseille

Bielsa as coach of Marseille in 2015

On 2 May 2014, Marseille president Vincent Labrune announced the hiring of Bielsa as his team’s coach on a French radio station. Labrune had previously confirmed an agreement in principle had been reached after the club’s 0-0 Ligue 1 draw with Lille on 20 April. Bielsa signed a two-year contract set to begin after the 2014 World Cup, thus becoming the club’s first Argentine coach.[31] He led them to the symbolic title of “autumn champions” after they beat Lille OSC on Matchday 19 (on 21 December 2014) of the 2014-15 Ligue 1 season before they faded to finish fourth in Ligue 1 at the end of the season.[32]

On 8 August 2015, after losing opening 2015-16 Ligue 1 match against Caen, Bielsa announced his resignation as the result of conflicts with the club’s management.[33]

Lazio

On 6 July 2016, Bielsa was appointed manager of Italian Serie A club Lazio.[34] However, just two days later, on 8 July, Bielsa quit as the club’s manager,[35] prompting Lazio to issue legal action against Bielsa for breach of contract, suing him for 50 million.[36] Bielsa later explained that the club had been unable to recruit the players he had wanted and did not feel that his needs would be supported during the transfer window.[37][38]

Lille

On 24 May 2017, Bielsa was unveiled as the new manager of Ligue 1 club Lille OSC on a 2 year contract.[39] Upon joining, Bielsa wanted to bring a more youthful side to Lille’s squad[40] and before the season started he informed 11 experienced players including Vincent Enyeama, Marko Baa, Rio Mavuba and Eder that they could leave the club.[41] Then Lille OSC player ric Bauthac revealed that Bielsa informed the players he wanted to leave in a conversation before pre-season had even began.[42] With Bielsa signing younger ‘promising’ players such as Nicolas Pp, Thiago Mendes, Thiago Maia, Kvin Malcuit, Fod Ballo-Tour, Luiz Arajo and Edgar I.[43]

On 22 November 2017, Bielsa was suspended as coach after just 13 games in charge, with Lille OSC announcing he had been “suspended momentarily as coach” pending further announcement. After Bielsa’s initial suspension, Lille appointed a four-man ‘technical coaching unit’ of Fernando Da Cruz, Joao Sacramento, Benoit Delaval and Franck Mantaux.[44] On 15 December 2017, Lille announced Bielsa’s contract had now been terminated.[45]Christophe Galtier was named as Bielsa’s replacement as Manager on 29 December 2017.[46] Sporting adviser Luis Campos revealed after Bielsa left, that he felt the decision to let some of the experienced players leave was the key to the departure.[47]

Leeds United

On 15 June 2018, Bielsa became Championship club Leeds United‘s new head coach to replace Paul Heckingbottom, signing a two-year contract with the option of a third year, after two weeks of negotiations with the club. In doing so he became the highest-paid manager in Leeds United history.[48][49] Leeds won their opening game of the new 2018-19 Championship season, beating Stoke City 3-1 at Elland Road.[50] In his second game as manager, Bielsas side beat Derby County 4-1 at Pride Park Stadium. Bielsa also won his third game in charge, 2-1 against Bolton in the EFL Cup, making him the first Leeds manager to win his opening three games since Jimmy Armfield in October 1974.[51]

This run extended to four games following their 2-0 victory over Rotherham United, making him the first Leeds United manager ever to record four consecutive wins at the start of their tenure as head coach.[52] Leeds’ winning run was ended after a 2-2 draw with Swansea City, but a 79th minute equalizer from former Swansea Player Pablo Hernndez ensured Leeds continued their unbeaten run.[53] After leading Leeds United through the first six Championship rounds unbeaten and to the top of the league, Bielsa was awarded Championship Manager of the Month for August 2018 by the EFL.[54]

Bielsas unbeaten start to the season was ended on 22 September with a 2-1 home defeat, inflicted by Birmingham City. Che Adams first half brace was enough to beat Leeds, despite the home side having most of the possession and chances created.[55] Bielsa’s Leeds had to endure an extensive injury list with several of his squad picking up significant injuries within the first few months of the season.[56] However, with Leeds still in the Championship automatic promotion positions at the start of December 2018 despite the injuries,[57] Bielsa was heavily praised for his integration of Leeds United academy players to seamlessly cover the gaps of his injured squad[58] and over the course of the 2018/19 season he gave 10 players under 21 their senior debuts.[59]

On 23 December after a dramatic late 2-3 win against Aston Villa,[60] at the exact half-way point of the season, Bielsa’s Leeds side sat top of the Championship despite a continued extensive injury list.[61]

Bielsa was nominated for the Championship Manager of the Month award for December 2018,[62] but lost out to the award to Hull City manager Nigel Adkins.[63]

Before a 2-0 victory over Derby County on 11 January 2019 to further Leeds’ lead at the top of the Championship table,[64] in the pre match build up Bielsa admitted he had sent a spy to the Derby training ground,[65] after reports emerged in the press that a man was spotted the previous day outside the Derby training ground.[66][67] Derby manager Frank Lampard was critical of Bielsa’s method.[68] On 12 January, Leeds United released a statement in response to the incident.[69]Tottenham Hotspur Manager Mauricio Pochettino described the incident as ‘not a big deal’ and commonplace in Argentina.[70]Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola, when asked about Bielsa’s due to his scouting methods, described him as ‘the best’ and ‘everyone who works with him is a better player and the teams are better. That’s why hes a special manager and special person’.[71] On 15 January, the EFL announced they would be investigating the incident.[72]

With intense media scrutiny on what was coined ‘Spygate’ in the media, dividing opinion worldwide,[73][74][75] on 16 January 2019 Bielsa announced a press briefing, where he gave a detailed analysis of his research on a PowerPoint presentation to the gathered media and journalists, detailing his meticulousness, thoroughness and preparation over his opponents,[76][77] with some journalists in attendance describing it as a ‘coaching masterclass’ and ‘genius’.[78][79][80] Bielsa’s ‘Spygate’ saga was resolved on the 18 February, when Leeds were fined a sum of 200,000 by the EFL for breach of a portion of Rule 3.4 of EFL Regulations (“In all matters and transactions relating to The League each Club shall behave towards each other Club and The League with the utmost good faith. Bielsa paid the 200,000 fine.)[81][82], with the EFL also announcing a new rule as a result, that teams could not watch opposition training up to 72 hours before a game.[83] It was subsequently revealed, by Bielsa, that he paid the 200,000 fine in full out of his own pocket.[84]

With Bielsa’ Leeds in 2nd place with just 4 games to go and thus in the automatic promotion position ahead of rivals Sheffield United, on 19 April, Leeds lost in a shock 1-2 defeat against relegation threatened Wigan Athletic, with Leeds playing 70 minutes against 10 men after Wigan had Cdric Kipr sent off. The result proved costly, as Sheffield United overtook them on goal difference.[85]

On 28 April 2019, Bielsa made one of the most contentious managerial calls of the Championship season in Leeds’ penultimate league game against Aston Villa at Elland Road.[86][87][88] In the 72nd minute of a tight game between two teams who were essentially jostling for position in the playoffs, albeit Leeds ‘mathematically’ still able to gain automatic promotion, when Villa’s Jonathan Kodjia was injured and remained on the ground, Tyler Roberts passed the ball up the line to Mateusz Klich who took it up the left wing and put the ball into the far corner past Jed Steer. The goal – the first of the game – sparked pandemonium, with Villa’s Conor Hourihane, Ahmed Elmohamady, Neil Taylor and Leeds’ Patrick Bamford caught up in a fracas with Klich at its centre, which involved several additional players from both sides and was eventually broken up by referee Stuart Attwell, Elland Road stewards and other players. In the immediate aftermath, Attwell sent off the peripherally involved Anwar El Ghazi with a straight red card (subsequently rescinded by the F.A.[89]) and Bielsa’s response to his players was, in the interests of fairness and after consulting with Villa boss Dean Smith,[90] that his team should allow an unchallenged equaliser to be scored (the manager can be seen shouting “Give the goal! Give the goal!” from the touchline). From the restart, Albert Adomah essentially walked the ball into net unchallenged by 10 Leeds players, with only a frustrated and disbelieving Pontus Jansson giving chase and nearly dispossessing the forward. The game remained 1-1 and put the second automatic promotion spot mathematically out of reach for Leeds and see them enter the play-offs. Bielsa and the team were subsequently awarded the 2019 FIFA Fair Play Award on 23 September 2019, for their actions during this game[91], with the FIFA citation noting that “The game finished 1-1, ultimately allowing their promotion rivals Sheffield United to guarantee their automatic spot in the Premier League, at Leeds expense. What was at stake makes Bielsas act of sportmanship all the more remarkable”.

At the end of the 2018-19 season, with Leeds missing out on automatic promotion, Bielsa said that he refused to blame the club for missing out on signing winger Daniel James whose deal fell through dramatically on deadline day in the 2019 January transfer window, but said “I’m not underlying the importance of the absence of (Dan) James”.[92]

Leeds finished the regular season in third place and qualified for the playoffs, after an injury hit season, Leeds also had several key players out injured for their playoff campaign.[93] In the semi-final playoffs versus sixth-placed Derby County, they were beaten on 3-4 aggregate over the two legs. Despite taking a 1-0 win at Pride Park into the home leg at Elland Road, Bielsa’s Leeds lost 4-2 in an encounter that saw both teams reduced to 10 men and Derby progress to the final against Aston Villa.[94] With Bielsa denying the narrative of ‘Bielsa Burnout’[95] (journalists’ theory that his sides tire in the second half of a season),[96][97] Bielsa said one of the big reasons Leeds failed to gain promotion was their prolificacy in front of goal over the course of the season, claiming that statistically Leeds needed several more chances to score compared to their Divisional rivals.[98][99]

On 28 May 2019, Bielsa and Leeds jointly exercised the option on Bielsa’s contract to continue as Leeds Head Coach for the following 2019-20 season.[100]

After Bielsa had signed his new contract, Leeds announced the signings of Hlder Costa, Ben White (loan), Jack Harrison (loan), Jack Clarke (loan), Liam McCarron, Illan Meslier (loan) and Eddie Nketiah (loan) in their bid to get back to the Premier League in the 2019-20 EFL Championship season.

Defender Pontus Jansson was informed by Bielsa to return to training later than the rest of the 1st team squad in order to give him time to find a new club, with him no longer in Bielsa’s plans for the upcoming season. Jansson was subsequently sold to Brentford.[101][102]

After beating Yorkshire rivals Barnsley on 15 September 2019, Bielsa’s Leeds side remained top of the Championship after 7 games during the 2019-20 EFL Championship.[103]

With Leeds not always converting ‘expected goal count’ metric chances in games, despite high expected goals chance creation and dominant performances,[104] following Derbys 91st-minute equalizer against a dominant Leeds display at Elland Road on 21 September 2019,[105] Bielsa noted through his translator at the post-game press conference,[106] that if we want to analyse, we cannot avoid to have this talk, concerning the attacking issues of the current team. Maybe we can be more efficient with in the team, he noted about the 1-1 result where, having dominated the first 60 minutes, Leeds squandered at least 10 goalscoring opportunities to Derbys one shot on goal (by half-time, Leeds had had 71% possession). Bielsa felt that:

two goalscorers are better to take advantage of 10 chances. But we should see which player we take out from the team and is going to be the result if we take out one player behind the attackers, the goalscorer. If we play with two goalscorers, maybe Forshaw or Klich are out of the team – Shackleton/Forshaw/Klich – and one centre-forward without two midfielders behind him is going to make worse the building of the attack. So if you have two centre-forwards one team, that doesnt create a lot of chances – you cannot take advantage of the results that you have. This is my way of thinking.[107]

Referring to the 79th-minute substitution of Nketiah for Bamford, Bielsa noted: When I put Nketiah on the pitch I was thinking taking out Klich and that Eddie and Bamford play together – Bamford behind Eddie. Bamford this decision: he has to be combine and hes starting to know some players, in the case of Nketiah for example, he needs to know how he combines with both of them.[108]

On 23 September 2019, Bielsa and his Leeds United squad won the FIFA Fair Play Award: 2019 for Bielsa’s sportsmanship in May 2019 to allow Aston Villa to score a goal unopposed in a game in which the ultimate result ended Leeds’ ‘mathematical’ chances of automatic promotion the prior season.[109][110][111]

With Bielsa’s Leeds side impressing throughout the month of November, Bielsa was nominated for the EFL Championship Manager of the Month for November.[112] With Bielsa winning the award on 13 December.[113]

Bielsa side returned to top of the league on 29 December 2019 thus ending the decade at the top of the EFL Championship after a 4-5 victory in a dramatic win against Birmingham City.[114] On 1 January 2020, Leeds drew with then-second-placed West Bromwich Albion in a 1-1 draw. The result kept Leeds on top of the table on goal difference.[115] However, after the game it was revealed that Arsenal had recalled Eddie Nketiah.[116] Bielsa had also lost loanee Jack Clarke who had also been recalled by Tottenham Hotspur,[117] with Bielsa revealing on 4 January 2020 that he would be looking to replace both players.[118] The club secured replacements for both players during the January transfer window, signing Jean-Kvin Augustin on loan from RB Leipzig and Ian Poveda on a four-and-a-half year contract from Manchester City.[119][120]

Coaching style

Given his heavy influence on former players, many of whom later became coaches (Mauricio Pochettino, Diego Simeone, Marcelo Gallardo) he is considered one of the most influential managers[121] in the modern era, introducing a third wave ideology in the Argentine coaching dichotomy previously influenced by Csar Luis Menotti and Carlos Bilardo. Pep Guardiola has labeled Bielsa as the best in the world.[122]

Bielsa’s signature formation in his squads – which he made famous and brought to the front of the world’s mainstream football scene during his coaching tenures in with the Argentina and Chile national teams and Marseille – is the 3-3-3-1 formation.

For this formation, the players are: three defenders , three midfielders (one central midfielder with two wide players / wing backs), three attacking midfielders (one No.10 and two wingers) and one centre-forward. The 3-3-3-1 allows quick transitions from defending to attacking, as many of the players used in the formation can perform both defensive and attacking tasks. Moreover, it establishes superiority in numbers in every part of the field, since with this formation his teams could defend with seven players, attack with six or seven players, or protect a scoreline by overwhelming the midfield with six players. To use 3-3-3-1, all players have to quickly set to attacking positions when the ball is in the team’s possession, and all players have to aggressively press and recover the ball when it is not in possession, so it requires great teamwork and understanding between teammates.[123]

When he took the Argentina job, at the end of his first training session Bielsa handed the players a pencil and a little slip of paper. He wanted them to write down whether they wanted to line up with a back three or a four. He went through all the replies. “Back four, back four, back four… This clearly shows your preference for a line of four. But I’m telling you that from now on we’re going to be playing with a back three. See you tomorrow.” And he won them over, bringing them round to his way of thinking.

BBC South American football correspondent Tim Vickery.[6]

He adapted to an attacking 4-3-3 at Athletic Bilbao (as seen in the 2012 UEFA Europa League Final), with full-backs pushing forward and a converted midfielder in the back line also involved in build-up play, with the pressing and coordination elements still in evidence.

In the 2018-19 season at Leeds United, Bielsa introduced a 4-1-4-1 formation,[124] with Kalvin Phillips converted from a box-to-box or attacking midfielder into the deepest-lying midfielder.[125] When facing a team who played with two central strikers, Bielsa would switch to the 3-3-3-1,[126] with Phillips dropping further back into the defensive line as a centre-back or “sweeper.”[127]

This signature style of Bielsa’s has had so much influence in the football scene that many present coaches – former players under Bielsa’s command – are heavily influenced by the style, such as Gerardo Martino, Mauricio Pochettino, Diego Simeone, Matas Almeyda, Eduardo Berizzo, Mauricio Pellegrino, Santiago Solari and Marcelo Gallardo. Current Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola credited Bielsa as his tactical inspiration and called him the “best manager in the world” in 2012.[128]Jorge Sampaoli, former manager of Argentina, Sevilla FC and Chile, has been described as a “disciple” of Bielsa.

Former Argentina national team captain Roberto Ayala, a defender under Bielsa, stated, “Sometimes we wouldn’t see any of the strikers, because he’d have them training at a different time, and it was the same with the midfielders”.[129]

Bielsa is known for watching and collecting numerous football videos to the point of obsession. He edits and analyzes each video for each individual player. He also utilizes statistical software and other technological tools to prepare for games. John Carlin, an English journalist, has stated that Bielsa has “the most learned football library on the planet”.[130]

Bielsa likes to systematise the game. He says that there are 29 distinct formations in football and believes that every young player should be given the opportunity to experience each of them.[131]

Discovered by Bielsa, prolific former Argentina national team striker Gabriel Batistuta proclaimed Bielsa to be “the one who taught me how to train on rainy days, he taught me everything”.[132][133]Fernando Llorente, who played under Bielsa at Athletic Bilbao, said of his former coach, “At first he seems tough and he may even annoy you with his persistence and don’t-take-no-for-an-answer resilience, but in the end he is a genius.”[134]Chile international Alexis Snchez said of Bielsa ‘I learned a lot from him and it is because of him that I am who I am.’[135]Bayern Munich player Javi Martnez who worked with Bielsa at Bilbao, said that ‘Bielsa taught me a lot, how to play as a centre-back and to learn a different style of football, everyone should work with him at least once in their life.’[136]

Manchester City and France player Benjamin Mendy cited for his improvement under Bielsa at Marseille, Mendy claimed Bielsa had “given back to him the strength and aggressiveness lost last year.”[137][138] His club and international teammate Aymeric Laporte who was given his debut by Bielsa at Athletic Bilbao, described him as a ‘mentor’ figure.,[138] whilst fellow France international Dimitri Payet who worked with Bielsa at Marseille said ‘The season with Marcelo Bielsa made me grow, as a man and especially on the field, in the game, he gave me important bases that I still use today.’ Former Lille player Nicolas Pp (now at Arsenal) who was signed by Bielsa for Lille described Bielsa as ‘special’ and a ‘great coach’.[139]

Bielsa’s unique style continued at Leeds, where in order to receive a work permit from the UK government he had to prove “exceptional talent”: he did so by compiling a dossier of every formation used in every Championship match during the 2017-18 season, with notes on frequency and variations. Once at the Yorkshire club, he instituted all-day training sessions, gave the first team their own private space at Thorp Arch, and had sleeping quarters installed in his office so he could devote more time to match analysis. As a motivational tactic, Bielsa once made players pick up trash around the training ground for three hours, as he had been told that was how long an average Leeds fan worked to afford a ticket.[140]

Some critics have argued that the taxing demands of Bielsa’s management style have led to his teams starting a season brightly before a dip in performances as players begin to tire.[141]

In August 2019, Bielsa was one of the main stars of Leeds United documentary ‘Take Us Home’ documenting the 2018-19 season on Amazon Prime, featuring in several episodes over voice recording, before doing a rare sit down interview for the final episode ‘The End’, the documentary was narrated by Academy Award-winning actor and Leeds United fan Russell Crowe.[142][143][144][145] After Leeds’ 4-0 defeat of then-chasing rivals West Brom at Elland Road on 1 March, 2019 in ‘Take Us Home’, Bielsa (through a translator) mused on the nature of victory:

I came to be part of a programme that has goals, and of course we are aware of the goals wanted by the city and the club, the players, the fans, everybody. But I also cant say that my only interest is winning. What also interests me is the way we build to the victory.[146]

Managerial statistics

As of match played 15 February 2020[147]

Managerial record by team and tenureTeamFromToRecordPWDLWin %Newell’s Old Boys1990199294393718041.5Atlas1993199578292425037.2Amrica1995199640121810030.0Vlez Srsfield199719983822124057.9Espanyol199819989243022.2Argentina199815 September 200468421610061.8Chile11 July 20074 February 201166341220051.5Athletic Bilbao7 July 201130 June 2013112433138038.4Marseille17 May 20148 August 20154121713051.2Lazio6 July 20168 July 20160000!Lille24 May 201715 December 201719559026.3Leeds United15 June 2018Present87451725051.7Total653294183176045.0

Honours