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SPORTS | 12-09-2020 10:12

Bielsa ready to take on ‘best league in the world’

Two months have passed since Leeds clinched the Championship title and Marcelo Bielsa has been hard at work, preparing his side to take on England’s top clubs.

For the elated fans of Leeds United, the joy of finally returning to England's Premier League after 16 years out in the cold was quickly replaced by anxious uncertainty. 

Marcelo Bielsa, the Rosario-born veteran who had done so much to make promotion from the Championship possible, had confirmed his position as coach only up to the end of the delayed 2019-2020 season, and as the days and weeks went by a stony silence reigned around Elland Road as news of the Argentine's expected contract extension dried up.

On Thursday, though, just 48 hours before the Whites face today's Premier League (re)baptism of fire at Anfield away to defending champions Liverpool, the clouds parted in West Yorkshire. Bielsa is staying on, to the delight not just of the club's long-suffering supporters but for a huge number of football enthusiasts in Argentina, Chile and across the world that have followed every twist and turn of their efforts to escape the second division.

“I am going to work the coming year in Leeds. It is definite now,” ‘El Loco,’ as he is affectionately known from Leeds to Luján, confirmed in a video press conference convened prior to the Liverpool match. 

While less than two months have passed since those euphoric scenes of celebration around Leeds thanks to their capture of the Championship title, true to form the Argentine appears not to have taken his eye off the ball for a single second: “I did not have the chance... I did not have free time to take vacations. I have worked 100 per cent since the day after the celebrations ended. This is the best league in the world and that always implies the very highest levels.

“I always get nervous before a game, it is when I am not scared that I will be worried.”

 

Meticulous

Bielsa is famed for his meticulous preparations, notoriously watching hundreds of hours of match videos prior to taking any new job – upon arriving at his inaugural Leeds press conference he shocked reporters by revealing he had watched all of the club's 51 games from the previous season in full, including two friendlies played in Myanmar. 

But no matter how prepared the coach is, there is little to be done if the appropriate support does not arrive from the boardroom or the pitch. In that sense, El Loco has plenty of reason to be optimistic ahead of what will be a challenging season for the Premier League newcomers.

The club has spent heavily on reinforcing its squad, bringing in Valencia's Rodrigo Moreno as their most expensive signing in history as well as highly rated Germany defender Robin Koch and Manchester City's Jack Harrison and a host of promising young talent to add depth long-term. Bielsa is additionally hoping to add Argentina midfielder Rodrigo De Paul to his ranks, with talks continuing with Italy's Udinese over a transfer, with other moves also in the pipeline.

'In Bielsa We Trust' has become Leeds' unofficial motto over these past two seasons, a trust that has been repaid handsomely by the eccentric trainer as he first took them from mid-table stagnation to the brink of promotion and then went one better to capture the title. 

Now the real work begins to establish the three-time English champions back amongst the nation's elite: a challenge that might keep Bielsa's nerves on edge, but which he certainly will not shirk as he looks to further cement his standing as a living idol at Elland Road.

 

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Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards

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