There is unlikely to be a more shocking managerial appointment this summer but Marcelo Bielsa says that the opportunity to take charge of Leeds United was “impossible to turn down.”
The legendary Argentinian coach, who has been out of work since leaving Lille last year has signed a two-year deal with the option for a third and will now seek to get the historic Yorkshire club swiftly back to the top flight.
“It has always been my ambition to work in England and I have had several opportunities to do so during my career, however I have always felt it was important to wait for the right project to come along and so when a club with Leeds United’s history made me an offer, it was impossible to turn down,” Bielsa said in a statement.
“I am excited for the challenge ahead.”
✍️ | #LUFC are delighted to announce the appointment of Argentine Marcelo Bielsa in the role of head coach
— Leeds United (@LUFC) June 15, 2018
And make no mistake, this is a challenge.
Leeds have been looking for a manager since sacking Paul Heckingbottom on June 1st after less than four months in charge and so for the fifth successive season, the Whites will start a campaign with a new coach.
The club’s bizarre badge remodelling and proposed pre-season tour of Myanmar aside, it has been a tumultuous few years at Elland Road since the swift decline that took the club from the Champions League semi final to League One in six years.
Since 2013 Leeds have had ten managers (Bielsa now number eleven) as previous owner Massimo Cellino chopped and changed and did little to provide the foundations for a club to build towards promotion.
Andrea Radrizzani has now taken over and while Bielsa ticks the boxes in terms of the experience and profile that Leeds were looking for it is still unclear if El Loco is the man to bring stability.
Eccentric and obsessive, Bielsa’s influence is without question but that hasn’t automatically brought success.
The 62-year-old famously walked out just two days after signing with Lazio in 2016 over what the Argentinian considered broken promises and he was then fired from Lille after 13 games in charge and the team virtually bottom of Ligue 1.
Prior to that there were impressive spells with Marseille and Athletic Club before both clubs suffered the widely reported Bielsa burnout.
However, recent record aside, what Bielsa did for Chilean football as national team boss between 2007-11 can’t be understated and while winning Olympic gold with Argentina or Primera titles with Vélez Sarsfield and Newell’s Old Boys, El Loco’s status as one of the game’s brightest thinkers was firmly established.
Does Bielsa guarantee success? Most certainly not. Is there good reason why Mauricio Pochettino, Pep Guardiola and Jorge Sampaoli speak so highly of the coach? Absolutely.
Leeds securing a manager of such esteem is an enormous coup that could be a masterstroke or a disaster and for the neutrals will make for compulsive viewing.