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Report: Leeds United wants Bielsa as manager


during the pre-season friendly match between Atalanta BC and LOSC Lille at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia on July 26, 2017 in Bergamo, Italy.

Emilio Andreoli

Marcelo Bielsa could finally make his debut in an English-speaking country.

The famous Argentine is reportedly the top managerial target of Leeds United, according to a report from El Correo in Spain. The report says negotiations are underway, paving a path for Bielsa to come to England. The news of Leeds’ interest in Bielsa was bolstered Friday when the club announced that it had sacked Paul Heckingbottom after less than four months in charge.

Bielsa most recently was with Lille, but the two sides separated after barely six months at the helm. Bielsa, known as “El Loco” is a difficult man for owners to deal with, but when he gets his way, he often delivers results. He’s known for playing a high-pressing style, with the intent to create turnovers in the opponent’s half of the field and then counter with quick two-on-one advantages along the wings.

Bielsa was a long-term coach of Argentina, where he led the team from 1998 through 2004, including winning an Olympic Gold Medal in 2004. After three years away, he moved to Chile where he helped set up what became a dynasty, with the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal flourishing in his high-tempo system. At Athletic Bilbao, Bielsa took the Basque club to the Europa League final, despite facing teams with much higher budgets along the way.

But Bielsa has had his troubles in recent times with club chairman. Bielsa agreed to become the Lazio coach ahead of the 2016-2017 season, only to leave two days into his job after realizing that promises from the club in terms of a transfer budget were false. At Marseille, the club spent more than $11.6 million to sign promising Brazilian defender Doria, but having done it without Bielsa’s permission, Doria languished on the bench as Bielsa refused to play him.

At Lille, after a rough run of form, an unannounced trip to Chile - to visit a cancer-stricken former assistant - was the final straw.

It’s hard to imagine that Bielsa will find the Championship very welcoming. With a grueling 46-game league schedule, it’s very demanding on players and they may tire early in the season working with Bielsa’s style.

On the other hand, after the infusion of cash from the San Francisco 49ers ownership group, the club may have pockets deep enough for Bielsa to form the squad he wants, potentially bringing Leeds back to the Premier League.