Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa
Image from:

Marcelo Alberto Bielsa Caldera

Current Club/Country: Leeds United.

Previous Clubs/Countries: LOSC Lille, Lazio, Marseille, Athletic Bilbao, Chile, Argentina, Espanyol, Velez Sarsfield, America, Atlas Guadalajara, Newell's Old Boys.

Honours: Olympics 2004.

Bielsa is a man who is considered one of the greatest coaches of all time by a whole host of 'acolytes', the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino among them. He has produced some wonderful football from teams that really should not have been capable of the levels he brought out of them. For me, he came to my attention when he took charge of Chile, who were in those days a poor national side who struggled to be competitive in South American football with the days of Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano at their peak just a memory.

Under Bielsa, Chile became an international powerhouse, playing exciting, attractive, attacking football using a 3-4-3 system, after years of defending deep and hitting long balls over the top to the forwards in the hope of them creating some magic. He coached the players over time into producing some performances that were way beyond the sum of their parts, teaching the players the value of hard work and working together.

It was in very large part down to his work with Alexis Sanchez that the Chilean became a top class player with a high workrate, as Bielsa developed a high pressing system that needed every man to do their part. His system does require the players to work hard and that can often lead to a dropping off in performance levels in the second half of a season, as fitness is not always up to the demands placed on his players.

Unfortunately, he is extremely temperamental, tending to quit and so it has yet to be established whether or not the players fitness levels will increase to match requirements if they work with him for an extended period. As a national coach, players are only with him for short periods within seasons, so they never had to go through lengthy periods of playing his high energy style. Though it is interesting to note that the likes of the aforementioned Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, who worked with him in the Chile team, were both known for their high intensity play over the course of a season.

This is why his Leeds team will be an unknown quantity in the second half of the season, he has never managed in a league which places such high physical demands on players as the Championship does. I do not think there is a league that can compare in that respect to it anywhere in the world. It is why it is so difficult to call, as players are simply unable to perform at their best consistently in such high tempo conditions over so many games in such a short period of time. Bielsa will finally have the chance to establish whether his genius for coaching really does have the limits that critics often claim, or if he is as good as his disciples claim.

Bielsa is an obsessive, who puts in huge amounts of work to create tactical plans for every game and to find out opponents weaknesses to pinpoint. He puts together huge dossiers of information on potential opponents, how they play, what formations, which of their players does what etc, so that he can prepare for almost every eventuality. In fact it was his knowledge of the Championship, despite never having worked in England, that persuaded Leeds United to hire him, as he knew more about the division than any other manager they considered, even ones already in the league!

What he has shown is that he can drag performances way beyond the players' previous level out of them, and can do it very quickly, unlike many other coaches who take longer to get their message across. Leeds he has transformed and done it playing beautiful football that gets the fans off their seats and entrances neutrals. That, to me, is something to be applauded in a league where most just go for physicality and try and overpower opponents to win promotion, ala Warnock and Pulis. Now it is down to Bielsa to see this project through and show he can build a side for the long term.

Requested by .eden. & angelred