Marcelo Bielsa is a household name. Tactically he’s been described as one of the best coaches in the world of football although not many agree with how he does his things.
Having quenched Leeds’s 16 years’ thirst of the Premier League, he showed why he will be a nuisance for coaches in the English top-flight after pushing Liverpool to the wire last week.
He might have not had the glittering career of a lot of modern-day managers as he retired at an early age of 25 from active playing and took the first step into management with the youth setup at Newell’s Old Boys in his native Argentina.
The foundation laid at Newell has seen him traverse the world where he has coached some of the best teams in Europe including Athletic Bilbao, Marseille, Lille, Lazio, Espanyol and even the Argentine National Team.
The likes of Mauricio Pochettino credits their coaching careers to Bielsa with Man City boss describing him as the “best coach in the world” but there are others who don’t agree with his tactics with Chelsea’s Frank Lampard having faulted the tactician during their time in the English Championship in the infamous “Spygate” incident.
But what do those who have worked with him say about his dreams, life policies and tactics in games?
- Gabriel Batistuta
“When I arrived, I was fat – it’s that simple. I liked alfajores (a traditional biscuit). The first thing Bielsa did was get rid of them and teach me to train in the rain. I hated him for it.
“We were a group of dreamers and the first dreamer was Bielsa. He dreamed about being Arrigo Sacchi, who he watched constantly winning European Cups. He wanted that to be us. A group of street kids to become heroes.”
- Mauricio Pochettino
“It helped you find answers on the pitch. All that homework – I wish all my friends could have experienced at least one per cent of what I did.”
- Diego Simeone
“I have the influence of several coaches: Bielsa, Eriksson, Basile, they have all left a mark. Bielsa taught me the most.”
- Alexis Sanchez
“I learned a lot from him and it is because of him that I am who I am. What I remember the most about Bielsa was the mentality that he tries his players to have.”
- Ander Herrera
“When I joined Bilbao, Marcelo Bielsa told me, ‘Don’t complain ever again, because referees are there to help footballers, not to kill them.’ That was a lesson I had from him.
“I was going from a team that was fighting to keep alive to the romantic football of Marcelo Bielsa, so it was a big change for me. We played amazing football. Marcelo Bielsa should always be in football because the view he has about football is amazing.
“I remember the things he would say: ‘If we score the first goal, we are going to try to score the second,’ ‘don’t waste time,’ ‘don’t complain to the referee,’ ‘even if you have a bad decision, keep running, keep fighting,’ ‘if you score a goal, the best way to defend is to score the second one.’”
- Benjamin Mendy
“He made me devour videos like never before. To begin with, he put me in front of the videos and I’d fall asleep. But he was happy! I was shocked.
“After a while I stopped sleeping and told myself go on, I’ll watch two minutes of this thing after all. After that he talked to me, I talked to him and we’d go over moves together.
“He told me, see, that’s why I let you sleep. You slept, you slept, you slept, but the day you decided to watch you got interested on your own. If I’d pushed you to watch you wouldn’t have been interested. Marcelo is just too good.”
- Kalvin Phillips
“I never thought I’d be able to do this well. “I think it’s just the way he makes us train 100 per cent every game, he makes us watch videos on our (Leeds) games and goes back and tells us what we’ve done wrong and what we’ve done right.
“And positional play, I felt like I could play anywhere in midfield, but he knew what position was best for me, and he knew where he wanted me to play.
“I think with his style and the way that he’s nurtured me to play in that position I think it’s been a massive help to me.”