Leeds United announced today that they have welcomed legendary manager Marcelo Bielsa as head coach of the Yorkshire club. The former Newell’s Old Boys, Atlas, Club América, Vélez Sársfield, Argentina, Espanyol, Chile, Athletic Bilbao, Lille and Marseille manager takes up the hot seat at Elland Road after over a week of speculation and rumours.
Bielsa will be the fourth manager to take charge of Leeds in a little over a year, with former manager Garry Monk walking away from the club to take charge of Middlesbrough last May. Monk was replaced by Thomas Christiansen, who was in charge of APOEL Nicosia in Cyprus before taking the leap to the Championship and Leeds. He was sacked in early February after a dismal run of form, and former Barnsley FC manager Heckingbottom was named as his replacement.
And while the expectations for Heckingbottom were perhaps not as lofty as those for Christiansen, with Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani stating before the season that a “top-six” finish was the aim of the club, Heckingbottom could not find a way to get the team to win. Heckingbottom’s record at Leeds was a dismal four wins, four draws and eight losses from 16 matches. And for all of the talk about Heckingbottom being a coach who would bring up youth into the first team, he didn’t even do that unless he was forced to by injury.
Money won't be an issue for Marcelo Bielsa. Happy with the package Leeds are offering. But still negotiating over plans, infrastructure and the way he wants the club to function under him. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) June 11, 2018
The club finally put an end to speculation over Heckingbottom’s future on 1 June by sacking him, but the club has been in a holding pattern while Bielsa and Leeds came to an agreement over the details of his contract and assurances over what kind of control he would have over the playing squad.
Bielsa is easily the biggest name to coach at Leeds since the days of David O’Leary and the Champions League appearances. The Argentine has managed teams in his native Argentina, Mexico, Spain, and France, and he’s also taken charge of the national teams of both Argentina and Chile. The 62 year-old manager, nickname “El Loco” or “Crazy One” is regarded as a tactical genius, having installed an attacking, demanding style of play wherever he has gone.
When he has the players that work with his preferred 3-3-1-3 formation, his teams can dominate and become greater than the sum of their parts, as shown by his Athletic Bilbao team that lost in the Europa League final to Atlético Madrid in 2012 and his Chile team that made the 2010 World Cup. However, Bielsa is hard-headed about his formation and tactics, and if the players don’t necessarily fit his formation, the effectiveness of his teams start to wane.
That all being said, landing a coach of the status and reputation of Bielsa to coach in the English Championship is nothing short of a major coup. This is an amazing appointment for Leeds, and is vastly preferable to the same boring retreads as Sam Allardyce or Alan Pardew. You have to be lucky as well as good to get promoted, might as well roll the dice, right?