Tag Archives: Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa “To Sign Leeds United Contract Tonight” – by Rob Atkinson

It’s happening – Marcelo Bielsa will be the next Leeds United boss. I’m purposely avoiding the terms “manager” and “coach” as being, at this stage, too precise. But the implications of this appointment are that Bielsa’s stringent conditions and requirements have largely been met. In those circumstances, the continuing presence of Victor Orta notwithstanding, “Boss” seems like the best word to use.

The information is reliable, having been tweeted by the famously ITK journalist Phil Hay. So, United have got their man, a stellar appointment to put every other occupant of the Elland Road hotseat, possibly since Terry Venables, firmly into the shade. We must hope that the club intends to be fully honest and open in their dealings with Bielsa; they certainly weren’t with Venables.

Much more on this to come, obviously. In the meantime, we must wish our new Boss all the best, getting right behind him from Day One. This could and should be a pivotal moment in the illustrious history of a club approaching its centenary. From here, the only way should be up.

Welcome to Leeds United, Marcelo Bielsa. May you meet early with the success we all wish you.

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With Bielsa Joining Leeds, Legendary Striker Fernando Torres Cannot be Ruled Out – by Rob Atkinson

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Fernando Torres – on his way back to Elland Road?

SkyBet have suspended betting now on the question of the next Leeds United manager – the last price available on Marcelo Bielsa was, reportedly, a not altogether generous 20-1 on. If the bookies expect you to invest £20 to gain a quid, then you can bet they’re fairly certain of the eventual outcome – and now, even that price is off the table. With other sources reporting that Bielsa has been granted a work permit, it seems nailed-on that “El Loco” will be installed in the Elland Road hotseat in the very near future.

To say that this represents a change in United’s recruitment policy is hopelessly inadequate. It’s like saying that Leicester City‘s 2015 title triumph was mildly surprising, or that Harry Kewell is perhaps lacking slightly in the nobler scruples. Bielsa to Leeds is a seismic event, something that shows the club are getting seriously serious in their approach to achieving promotion to the Promised Land. As the wise Yorkshireman observed when he sampled his neighbour’s parsnip wine, “Owt could ‘appen ‘ere”.

That being the case, other stories in circulation, yarns that would normally be dismissed as too outlandish and fanciful even for Coronation Street, must now be treated a little more respectfully. In layman’s terms: if Bielsa can agree to take over at Leeds, and especially if he’s managed to get the club to grant him a big say in all footballing matters including transfers, then pretty much anything can happen now. We’re entering an alternate reality here, one for which the last decade and a half has left us totally unprepared. It is indeed a whole new ball game.

So, when rumour has it that Leeds United, at Senor Bielsa’s behest, are showing an interest in former Liverpool and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres, now 34 but eminently capable still of tearing the Championship division a new one, then my advice would have to be: Titter ye not. Put aside your initial impulse to scoff, carp and otherwise demonstrate your scorn. A new reality is upon us, and who can say with any certainty what’s possible or probable under these radically different circumstances? Not I, and, I’d respectfully suggest, not you either.

Even now, though, with an improbability field so vast drifting around Elland Road, that you’d be forgiven for demanding a refund on your Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, some possibilities must be counted as less likely than others. Bielsa? Almost certainly. Abel Hernandez? Where else is the lad going to go? Kyle Bartley? Agent Ayling is on the case. But Torres – a legend in the truest football sense of the world – that has to be a bit more of a stretch. SkyBet, supremely confident about Bielsa, regard Torres to Leeds rather more circumspectly at 33-1. They appear to see Japan as his likely destination, with Premier League minnows Newcastle also much more highly fancied than Yorkshire’s Number One, at 12-1.

Then again, it’s at Leeds United where the nigh-on impossible stuff appears to be happening right now. It should be remembered that Torres would be the third ex-Liverpool striker to join Leeds in the last couple of decades, following on from Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler. Could we really see Fernando Torres leading the line for the Whites at Millwall and Rotherham next season? The way things are around LS11 at the moment, you’d better think twice about betting against it.

Leeds Bielsa Talks Now on Home Straight but Suffering Cramp – by Rob Atkinson

Having been in the last mile of negotiations for the past 24 hours or so, Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa are now staggering up the home straight and expecting to reach the finishing line, which is in sight, at any time in the next hours, days, weeks or months.

The problem at this late stage is cramp. The home straight is slightly uphill and it’s been hot and muggy, so, you know. These things are never simple, and when you start tying up with the goal in sight, it gets really tricky. Fortunately, both parties have been able to take on essential isotonic supplements from a number of distinctly salty sources along the way.

More as we get it, but don’t hold your breath.

Despite the Furore, Marcelo Bielsa Remains Odds-On to be Leeds’ new Boss – by Rob Atkinson

Bielsa Bruce

Bielsa, or Bruce, or A.N.Other? Nobody knows, but the bookies have an idea

There’s a feeding frenzy of speculation surrounding Leeds United right now, with various internet sources pouncing on the fans’ anxiety to fuel debate as to whether the Whites will end up with a former Argentinian coach, or a former Man U centre half. Those two possibilities represent just about as polarised a choice of footballing philosophies as you could imagine, with Marcelo Bielsa favouring a high pressing game with a fluid attacking formation, whilst Steve Bruce would probably just let the players get on with it as, keenly aware of his popularity level at Elland Road, he sits in the dugout with a tin hat on.

It’s all speculation, simply because there is very, very little hard information out there. The sensible fan will resign him or herself to sitting back and waiting for something solid to transpire – but they might also take a passing glance at those bookies’ odds, which still have Bielsa as a strong odds-on favourite, despite talk of “drastic changes” in those odds. Odds-on in a field of several is powerful medicine; it does not indicate to the thinking fan that anything at all drastic has taken place. What is doubtless going on will be a lot of hard and urgent talking and, for the moment at least, that talking is most likely between United and Bielsa. Rumours that he is analysing videos of Leeds games from last season might incline us to send the poor chap some Paracetamol, but they do not, of themselves, make any particular outcome more likely.

All that’s actually happened in the betting market is that Bruce’s odds are shortened from 20-1 to 5-1, whilst Bielsa has seen his heavy odds-on price of 1-5 go out slightly to 4-9. That’s significant movement, particularly on the Bruce side – but then again, markets react to speculation, and his name has been bruited about a lot this past 24 hours. Overall, though, Bielsa remains a hot favourite – which is the most definite thing anyone can currently say.

For the record, my preference would be for Bielsa, based simply on the brand of football we might see. I’d also be extremely open to the possibility (if it exists) of Claudio Ranieri, who still rides fairly high in the odds.

It’s been a frustrating few days, and that might carry on a while yet. But all the indications remain positive that we’re still in for a very exciting summer.

An Angry Pontus Will be Better for Leeds United than the Meek Pontus of Last Season – by Rob Atkinson

Jansson

Bring on “Angry Pontus” for a Leeds promotion charge

If Leeds United are indeed to enjoy an annus mirabilis to follow the annus horribilis we’ve all just experienced, then a few changes will have to be made. One is underway; we’re currently gasping our way through the information vacuum between the termination of the hapless Hecky and the inevitable appointment of The Best Coach In The World™. Other changes are afoot too, with the acquisition of a striker recently valued at £20 million a distinct possibility for the princely sum of nowt. The snag is that Hull City‘s loss and our gain (and remember, we’ve already got one Hernandez) will require wages commensurate with his undoubted ability, failing which he might decide to join a Premier League relegation struggle at Wolves or Newcastle.

Still, these things are being dealt with, and some hard news will surely emerge shortly. But there are other areas of difficulty as well as coaching and the strike force: namely, goalkeeper, defence and a bit of steel in midfield – although the arrival of Forshaw has allayed some of the engine room anxiety, particularly if he can strike up partnerships with Messrs. Ideguchi and Klich. The goalkeeping problem is less taxing with the emergence of young Bailey Peacock-Farrell, though a more experienced keeper could well be added.

Which leaves us with defence, and the curious case of Pontus Jansson. There’s absolutely no doubt that Pontus, at his best, is exactly the sort of guy you would wish at the back, heading balls away to the halfway line, sliding in with murderous intent upon encroaching opposition forwards, and generally throwing himself about the park in the cause of Leeds United. That’s the Pontus we all remember, very fondly, from the majority of the season before last. The season just gone, though, was nothing like as impressive from Jansson. Deprived of a rock solid centre-back partner in Kyle Bartley, Pontus played through the recent campaign like a pale shadow of his former self, diffident, injury-prone, seemingly unable to get going when the going got tough. He occasionally got caught fannying about at the back instead of, as used to be his preferred method, clearing both ball and opponent far, fast and often. It was all most disappointing, and it sort of summed up our season, which flared briefly and then rapidly petered out into damp squib territory.

Now, Pontus is upset at the way certain recent remarks of his have been poorly translated, or misinterpreted, or taken out of context, or something. These utterances appeared to some fans capable of being seen as a “come and get me plea”, the implication being that Mr Jansson might be interested in various offers he might have been aware of, that would allow him to remain in England as he would wish, with just the hint that he’d ideally like to play in the Premier League. Seemingly, Pontus is irate at the way things have been lost in translation, claiming that he would “never talk bad about my club”. Doubtless, there is some inconsistency between the original quotes attributed to Jansson, and his more recent clarifications. You pays your money, and you takes your choice.

For me, though, the important thing is that, in hotly denying that he was angling for a move, Pontus showed a bit of fiery passion. Any central defender worth having should have this nasty streak in him, a part of his character that says, needle me at your peril. And it’s that irascibility, the flash of temper clearly apparent in the early days, that seemed to be missing in the season just past. Maybe it was the loss of Bartley, with the subsequent chopping and changing of defensive partnerships, or maybe it was just “second season syndrome”. But there was undoubtedly a difference, you didn’t have to be an ex-pro pundit to see that.

Now that he has, to some extent, nailed his colours to the mast, reaffirming his commitment and gratitude to Leeds United as the club that “saved his career”, maybe we can expect better things in the season to come – particularly if a certain Mr Bartley were to be lured back. We understand that Agent Ayling is on the case even as we speak. That better performance, though, is even more likely to come about if Pontus can harness some of that anger and attitude, the sort of thing he’s just displayed verbally, but that was sadly lacking in his on-field performances over the past year. A bit of anger might help restore that missing mojo.

Still, there’s a World Cup being held in the meantime, and Pontus will be hoping for more than a passing involvement in the colours of Sweden. And, if he happens to have a good tournament, then (at the risk of upsetting him) it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Pontus Jansson sidling towards the Elland Road exit door before August. I’ll just hope I’m wrong, and that instead, we’ll see Angry Pontus marshalling our defence as we challenge for promotion in 2019.

Fergie in the Running to Take Over as Leeds United Boss? – by Rob Atkinson

Fergie

Fergie for Leeds? No, thanks

A new name is doing the rounds as speculation as to the next Leeds United team boss rages on. Former Argentina and Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa is still the heavy favourite – but, since he resigned as manager of Doncaster Rovers the other day, Darren Ferguson, son of you-know-who, is being spoken of as a possible contender.

Any Leeds fan with any recollection of Ferguson at all will possibly treasure the memory of his almost tearful reaction to a defeat against Leeds while he was in charge of Peterborough United some years back. Certainly, this is the image of Fergie Junior that I wish to hold dear, rather than any possible involvement with Leeds United going forward. After names such as Bielsa and Claudio Ranieri have been mooted, the appointment of a relative obscurity such as Darren would be rather like missing out on Abel Hernandez for your main striker, and settling instead for Jerry Mbakogu. Actually, that could be an unfortunate choice of simile…

We’ll just have to hope that this story is an example of some hack or bookie having had a little too much sun, and that Leeds United will not be looking to catch a former Donny boss on the rebound.

Leeds United’s Gain Will Be Real Madrid’s Loss as Bielsa Heads to Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

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El Loco

It’s a topsy-turvy football world these days. Huddersfield Town occupy a higher league position than any other Yorkshire club, Manchester City are streets ahead of their Salford neighbours on the wrong side of the Pennines, Spurs are ahead of Arsenal – and Leeds United are set to appoint a coach seriously coveted for their own club by fans of European Champions Real Madrid.

Incredible as it might seem, the odds are ever more, as each hour passes, on Argentinian legend Marcelo Bielsa becoming the latest occupant of the Elland Road hot seat – with some well-placed sources claiming the deal is already done, all bar the work permit. To say that this would be a coup for United is to edge dangerously close to vast understatement. Anybody who can be suggested as the next coach of Real Madrid, as a feasible successor, mark you, to Zenedine Zidane himself – and yet not have that suggestion laughed out of court – must be hot property indeed. And then there’s the small matter of the opinion of Bielsa voiced by none other than Pep Guardiola – lest we forget, former Barcelona coach and current boss at runaway English champions Manchester City. According to Pep, Bielsa is “the best coach in the world”. Who are we to argue with Pep? Indeed, who is anybody to argue with Pep?

So these are heady days around Elland Road. Should the story be true, they’re liable to get even headier. And if the rumours are anywhere near the bullseye that such a coaching appointment also signals a stratospheric soaring of the United transfer ambitions, then the headiness will know no bounds. It’s safe to say that, in these circumstances, we’d be heading into next season on a high.

For the moment at least, it’s enough of a pleasing novelty to be linked with the likes of Bielsa, and of course Claudio Ranieri too. Things appear to be moving fast, though, and Don alone knows where all of our heads will be at in a couple of weeks or so. We could be celebrating, or we could be reflecting that we perhaps aimed too high. But I have a sneaky feeling that it’ll be the former state of affairs.

Roll on next season then, although – what with the World Cup as well as all of this juicy Leeds United speculation – the summer should be a lot more entertaining than usual for those of us with LUFC carved upon our hearts. One way or another, it’s going to be a very interesting next few months. 

EFL Will Schedule Dodgy Away Matches for Cold Tuesday Nights if Bielsa Takes Leeds Job – by Rob Atkinson

Bielsa – soft foreigner? Steve Evans thinks so

The Football League, having received informed assurances from omniscient football experts of the calibre of Steve Evans, now have a strategy for keeping Leeds United well away from promotion even in the event of them appointing as manager the man Guardiola and Pochettino regard as “the best coach in the world”.

According to Evans, the fatal flaw of legendary football coach Marcelo Bielsa is that he “won’t fancy it on a cold Tuesday night at Millwall/Rotherham/insert football shithole of choice”. This priceless nugget of information will therefore inform the League’s approach to arranging United’s fixtures in the coming campaign.

The upshot of this is that Leeds will face only fierce smaller clubs with massive anti-LUFC chips on their shoulders. All games will be played away from Elland Road, with no hot water being available, exclusively on chilly midweek evenings between late October and early March. This will involve significant planning difficulties, but the strategy is described by an EFL spokesman as well worth the trouble, with “the end justifying the means”.

The League has revealed that it will remain in consultation with Mr Evans on an ongoing basis, drawing on his knowledge of pansy foreigners to assist on the potential difficulties presented by United’s imminent appointment of a decent coach. It is understood Evans has also commented that “these latin types don’t like it up ’em”, so the administrators of the game are reviewing the possibility of cold steel bayonets being provided for home dugouts when Leeds visit.

No further statement will be issued until the Leeds vacancy is filled, though it is understood that the situation will be reviewed urgently in the event of United bucking the bookies’ odds by appointing Mr. Mick McCarthy, who has made a career out of winning at hostile football shitholes on cold Tuesday nights.

More on this developing story as we get it.

Leeds United MUST Stop Their Ruinous Bargain Basement False Economy – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds Fans

Unrivalled support – the part of football where Leeds still rule

In the wake of Paul Heckingbottom‘s long, drawn-out, yet curiously unceremonious dismissal from his job at Leeds United, it’s important now to face up to certain unpalatable truths. The next United manager will be the club’s TENTH since 2014, giving our beloved club the unenviable title of “Highest Coaching Turnover” in that spell. That is a shameful record, a record of poor judgement and consistent failure under the auspices of successive owners. Leeds United are bang to rights on being the authors of their own misfortunes.

As a footnote to this latest sacking, somewhere amid the flurry of departures as the entire coaching staff was shown the revolving door, one of the men to leave, his contract not being renewed, was “Set Piece Coach” Gianni Vio, appointed with fanfares towards the end of the unfortunate Thomas Christiansen‘s abbreviated reign. Vio was somebody’s bright idea, yet another that didn’t pay off. It’s Leeds United who have ended up paying, over and over again, the price of rank bad decision-making, as contract after contract has had to be settled. You can see the financial folly of this, quite apart from the public humiliation of our club, when you consider that invariably it’s not just one single sacking, but a batch of them. So you multiply the cost of the settlements to be paid as contracts are more or less honoured. Then you start the costly process again – rinse and repeat.

The thing is, it’s US, the hapless, helpless supporters who are really getting rinsed. We have to suffer the slings and arrows of mickey-taking mates who follow less accident-prone clubs. In one dank corner of the national press, a certain bogroll of a “newspaper” which shall remain nameless has even had the audacity to suggest that Leeds fans must take part of the blame. With the possible exception of the dimmer end of the Twitter following, that’s arrant nonsense. Leeds fans as a vast congregation can do nothing but stand back helplessly, watching one slow-motion car-crash after another. It really isn’t good for the morale of the troops.

At some point, either now or, if not, then in the very near future as I earnestly hope, the powers that be at Elland Road must learn from the catalogue of mistakes that they have made and then repeated ad nauseam. False economy, shopping for bargains instead of concentrating on the quality end of the market, has cost United millions. They’ve set out to achieve success on the cheap, whether they’re buying players or hiring coaches, and ended up being massively expensive serial failures. That doesn’t make for good reading or writing, and the really nasty part is that the people responsible don’t take or even acknowledge the blame that is undoubtedly theirs. That’s the real sickener. And of course, they can point to that moron-market rag which is cheerfully blaming us, the real beating heart of the club.

This cycle of making do, paying up, lamenting and then doing it all again must stop. It’s time that Leeds United got serious about the business of making a success in football. Happily, there are a few behind the scenes signs that preparations are underway to make just such a quantum leap in ambition and aspiration. Capital injections, and the spreading of the net internationally to land a new manager, offer at least some cause for cautious optimism. Likewise, the names mooted as transfer targets have an unfamiliar sheen of stardust about them. It well be that Leeds United are on the point of growing up and getting serious about Life.

I certainly hope so, because surely the fans of this still great club cannot take much more of being made to look fools by association. Last season was an example of passionate support, home and away, with Elland Road packed out and the travelling army invading most of the country in their usual fanatical hordes. It was a level and intensity of support that the club did precisely nothing to merit; you have to question, though, whether another year of complacent apathy on the part of Leeds United will not see a dropping-off of support. It’s almost heresy to suggest this, but even football fans of the loyalest strip have their limit.

Perhaps Leeds will now go for a name and a reputation big enough to demand that enough time and money is provided for them to work their own brand of magic. Whether that will be Marcelo Bielsa, Claudio Ranieri, or some other high profile appointment, it is now vital that Leeds should depart from the ruinous path of false economy they’ve been travelling for so long. We must instead speculate to accumulate, not dwelling on the old nightmare of “living the dream”, but instead doing what is necessary to compete in a savagely dog-eat-dog league, to emerge, finally, into the daylight of the top flight – where this club belongs.

Carpe diem, Leeds. Seize the day, as you have yet another chance to do. Get it right, before you run out of chances. It’s time to march on together to success, instead of trudging towards the next dispiriting failure. The future starts here – and, this time, we must succeed.

Only a Madman Would Want the Leeds Job. Marcelo Bielsa Might be That Man – by Rob Atkinson

Loco Bielsa – new Leeds coach?

The rumours that Leeds United are set to dispense with the services of coach Paul Heckingbottom simply refuse to go away. Indeed, they get stronger with every passing hour, and crazier too. The latest embellishment to the “Heckingbottom to get the boot at Leeds” whisper is an unlikely-sounding “and will rejoin Barnsley“. I wonder if the Tykes fans would be up for that?

Leeds fans, meanwhile, are lapping up the stories linking United with any number of replacements – even before little details like creating a vacancy have been attended to. That vacancy may well be posted quite soon though; the initial trickle of Hecky Out rumours has turned into a torrent that seems set to sweep away the former Barnsley man and lifelong Leeds hater. Even now he is on holiday, a status he mentioned in the context of being sacked, when he first occupied the Elland Road hot seat. His position now is being said by many Leeds fans, having seen this riptide of rumour swell to tsunami proportions, to be well nigh untenable.

So, if Hecky is to be gone, where does that leave Leeds United? Surely, after all the comings and goings under Cellino, and with Radrizzani already on the verge of wielding the axe a second time, only a complete nutter would consider the Leeds job. Well, the Whites may just, if the latest story is to be believed, have found that nutter in the volatile shape of the madcap Argentine, Marcelo Bielsa.

Who? Actually, if you’ve had anything to do with the LUFC hashtag these past few hours, you won’t need to ask who. For those who have not seen the Twitterstorm, though, all you need to know about Bielsa is here, together with a few bright-spark edits from the usual suspects. Suffice to say that he’s a brilliant coach who has his teams play a highly watchable brand of attacking football – and also that he is, reputedly, as mad as a box of frogs. If that’s not the identikit Leeds manager after the own heart of every United fan out there, then I don’t know who is.

Bielsa is nearly 63, so even though he might be a little cuckoo, he’s no spring chicken. But any managerial appointment is a risk for a club like Leeds and, having considered at some time or other most of the rational possibilities, maybe it’s time to try the other sort. From that point of view, the man they call Loco Bielsa would seem to be the obvious choice.

If this story does turn out to be true, then it’s safe to say that it’ll be a very interesting “however long it lasts” down at Elland Road. Twitter seems excited, and I must confess I am too. So if Hecky’s race really is run – and, let’s face it, his credibility as Leeds boss has been shot full of holes with all this talk and yet not a word from the club – then we’ll need a new man in sharpish.

And who better, in that case, than a controversial, maverick, hothead madman such as Bielsa? For an insane club like Leeds, he ticks more of the right boxes than just about anyone else you could imagine. It would be a “major coup” for the Whites, but much would of course depend on Heckingbottom’s fate, firstly – and then on whether or not the Argentine would want to work in the United management structure as it stands. But it’d be a refreshing change, a man of real stature and a genuine, one-off individual into the bargain. Since demotion from the Premier League 14 years ago, Leeds have tried just about everything to recapture the good times. It might just be that it’ll take a real nutter in the Bielsa mould to get this club back on track.