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Marcelo Bielsa’s up and down journey from Argentina to Leeds United

Bielsa has faced many difficult challenges before taking the managerial role at Leeds United

Leeds United v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

With Leeds United’s first match in the Premier League for 16 years coming tomorrow, Marcelo Bielsa will now have a new set of objectives for the 2020-21 Premier League season. When he arrived his main objective was to achieve promotion, now it’s to win the Premier League and qualify for the Champions League (shouldn’t be too difficult). Before arriving at Elland Road, Bielsa’s journey had so many ups and downs.

Leeds Fans Outside Millennium Square Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

After a short career as a defender for Newell’s Old Boys, Instituto, and Argentino de Rosario, Bielsa started coaching the youth ranks of Newell’s until getting to manage the first team ten years later. After winning the Torneo Apertura and defeating Boca Juniors on penalties for the Torneo Integración, Newell’s became finalists in the 1992 Copa Libertadores versus São Paulo. After a victorious first leg, Newell’s unfortunately lost to São Paulo on penalties.

Bielsa then had short managerial spells in Mexico with Atlas and Club America, before heading to Velez Sarsfield, and Espanyol. He then became manager of the Argentina national team in 1998. Bielsa had a handful of stars in his lineup: Juan Roman Riquelme, Walter Samuel, Juan Pablo Sorin, Javier Zanetti, and Diego Simone.


One of the first difficult experiences that Bielsa endured as a manager was the 1999 Copa America match vs Colombia with striker Martin Palermo missing three penalties. Bielsa’s frustration from that match led him getting sent off. Tim Vickery of the BBC noted Bielsa’s demeanor after the match, “In the press conference he sat staring into space, refusing to make eye contact with anyone - his usual stance.”

Leeds United v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

After a successful 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign, Argentina went into the tournament as many bookmakers favourites, but they were eliminated in the group stage of the tournament. It was another difficult experience for Bielsa but he went on to have triumphant experiences. In 2004, Bielsa’s Argentina were runner up in the Copa America and won Olympic gold, which was the first Olympic gold for the country in 52 years. Bielsa, however, resigned later that year.

Argentine’s national football team Carlo Photo credit should read ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP via Getty Images

After a three-year hiatus from management, Bielsa became manager of the Chile national team. Bielsa this time managed young up and comers such as Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal. The experiences in Chile were also difficult and triumphant. Bielsa led Chile to many away victories that hadn’t been achieved in decades which ultimately led to their 2010 World Cup qualification. After Chile were eliminated by Brazil in the round of 16, Bielsa resigned. His achievements in Chile left such an indelible mark on football in the country that the fans are referred to as “the Widows of Bielsa”, as they are still grieving that he is no longer the manager.

In his first season coaching at his next job, Athletic Bilbao in 2011, Bielsa led the squad to the 2012 Europa League final against Atletico Madrid and the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona - they lost both matches.

After that season Bielsa went to Marseille, he had them at the top of the league before falling away to to fourth - it one of the main seasons used for the infamous “Bielsa Burnout” stories we see everytime one of his teams has a bad run.

Two days at Lazio followed before he quit, Lazio sued Bielsa.

Lille OSC were next, Bielsa is suing them.

On June 15, 2018, Bielsa finally founded a club that he can pave the way to glory, Leeds United.

FBL-ENG-PR-LEEDS Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Bielsa is no stranger to obstacles. After facing so many roadblocks and difficult results, Bielsa inspires so many managers that live the same experience. Managers like Mauricio Pochettino, Gerardo “Tata” Martino (both of whom played under Bielsa in Newell’s) and Diego Simeone, all have faced difficult challenges and when they accomplished a feat, the feeling is extremely emotional.

Leeds United road to promotion was complete with the experience of Marcelo Bielsa and his determination. He has come a long way to be where he is today.