Most Honest Manager in the World: Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa on the sidelines for Leeds United

A brief history of Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Alberto Bielsa Caldera is an Argentinian football manager who is currently managing Leeds United in England (EPL).

Bielsa, in his playing days, played as a defender for Newell’s Old Boys’. However, Bielsa retired at the age of 25 and started coaching at a lower level in Argentina. He wasn’t the most talented of the players and struggled to make an impression as a youngster. As a result, Bielsa retired in his twenties and started studying physical education. His first professional job came at Newell’s Old Boys’ when he began coaching the youth side. 

Marcelo Bielsa was later appointed as the first-team coach of Newell’s Old Boys’ in 1990. He did an exceptional job by winning the Torneo Apertura in 1990. In 1991, he won the Torneo Integracion, and in 1992 his side won the Torneo Clausura. Overall, in three years, Bielsa excelled in his first task. 

Bielsa in the days of 1975-1980

Bielsa joined Espanyol, where Pochetino was a player. However, just after six days, Bielsa resigned after he was offered the job to coach the Argentinian national team. He was appointed as the coach of the national team of Argentina. It was a spell for which he is not appreciated for the job he did. After a three year absence, Bielsa returned to management after signing for the Chilean National football team in 2007. Bielsa assembled a brilliant attacking side with players like Alexis Sanchez, Gary Medel, and Arturo Vidal. They reached the round of sixteen in the World Cup 2010, marked as a fine achievement. 

Marcelo Bielsa moved to Athletic Bilbao in the summer of 2011. He had an excellent first season in Spain. However, an underwhelming second season was followed by the news of his departure. Bielsa joined Marseille in 2014 and had a reasonably good first season in France. However, just after a single game, the Argentine resigned as the result of conflicts with the club’s management. Later in his career, he had disgraceful spells at Lazio and Lille.

His tenure at Lazio lasted two days as he resigned from his position. Bielsa later explained that the club had been unable to recruit the players he had wanted. A lack of backing in the transfer market brought Bielsa’s resignation. In May 2017, he was appointed by Lille where he decided to deploy a squad of young players. In that case, he asked many of the club’s established, experienced players to leave. The conflicts with players began, and later Bielsa was suspended on an initial basis by the club to solve the issue. However, on 15 December 2017, Bielsa’s contract was terminated. It is understood that his decision to leave the experienced players was crucial in his sacking. 

Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United 

Under new management, Leeds finished 13th in the first season. They knew a World Class coach was needed. Leeds United’s board of directors were impressed with Bielsa’s achievements with Newell’s Old Boys’. Club’s CEO Angus Kinnear and Sporting Director Victor Orta, went to Buenos Aires to meet Marcelo. They had a meeting which lasted nearly 12 hours. Kinnear and Victor explained to him their plans and the potential in this project to bring Leeds United back where they belong. Bielsa understood the project straight away and was impressed with the planning. A few days later, Marcelo Bielsa was announced as the new head coach of Leeds United. 

Bielsa’s arrival saw extreme optimism among the Leeds faithful. The expectations were high going into the first season under the Argentine. They failed for promotion but had an outstanding season. Remarkable improvement was noticed in a short space of time, especially among the current players. The players such as Kalvin Phillips, Pablo Hernandez, excelled under Bielsa’s fascinating philosophy. 

They were unplayable for most of the season with their high-intensity game approach. Leeds looked clear favorites for automatic promotion to the Premier League. However, their form took a significant dip after the Christmas period. The results were becoming slightly inconsistent, and the certainty over gaining promotion was decreasing.

As the season reached its climax, Leeds dropped into the play-off spots. Norwich and Sheffield United gained automatic promotion, and Leeds missed out on the top two spots. A play-off success was the only way towards the Premier League. They faced Frank Lampard’s Derby County in the semi-finals. Over the two legs, Leeds failed to get the better of Derby County. A lot of this tiredness was due to the high intensity in which Bielsa’s side played throughout the season. A season which had optimism at the start finished with heart-break but the foundation for a new season was in place. 

Marcelo Bielsa Tactics – Leeds United

Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United primarily set up in a 4-1-4-1. However, this 4-1-4-1 is very much their defensive shape in which relentless pressing is a constant factor. Counter-pressing is another tool that Bielsa has instilled excellently in this Leeds side. They press heavily after losing the ball anywhere on the pitch. 

They press in the attacking and midfield thirds and stop teams from playing through them. This works efficiently against sides like Fulham, who like to play out from the back. Although, it seems to work less effectively against teams who play long balls to their center-forward. 

In possession, Leeds set up in an unusual 3-3-1-3. In this, the two center-backs split wide for the defensive midfielder to drop and collect the ball. Defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips is a significant part of this tactic. The full-backs push high to provide width while the wide attackers occupy the inside channels to create passing moves.

Leeds play out from the back by beating the press through the excellence of Kalvin Phillips. His positioning and vision are significant weapons, while his passing range is outstanding as well. Their midfield aims to find spaces in between the lines to then move forward through the thirds. 

Bielsa’s side is drilled for a high level of flexibility and rotation in the final third. The intense level of flexibility and rotation is required to create passing moves in and around the 18-yard-box. In this zone, the striker has a crucial role as his movement in behind the backline or in between the lines is necessary to pull defenders out of position. This creates significant space for the advancing midfielders looking to come on the end of crosses or final passes. 

Overall, Bielas has built a team to watch for next season in the Premier League. The high level of tactical strategies will be an exciting facet to watch.

Leeds United Spygate – The famous saga!

Before a game against Stoke City, Bielsa called an emergency press conference. Before this, Frank Lampard’s Derby County charged Leeds United for spying on their training session. Surprisingly, Bielsa took full responsibility for the Spygate allegations. As we mentioned, the emergency press conference was called, and tension grew among the fans. Why? Because the last time Bielsa called an emergency press conference, he resigned as the manager of Marseille. 

However, instead of resigning, Bielsa conducted one of the most extraordinary press conferences of all time. He did a remarkable 70 minutes presentation in front of all the media. In it, he showed the whole WorldWorld about how detailed his analysis is about every single opposition. The details he explained the entire WorldWorld were merely monumental. This press conference is why Bielsa is known as the most honest coach in the WorldWorld.

The conference’s point was to prove that Leeds United are brilliant not because of spying. Still, because of the extreme analysis and work, they put in. Regardless of right or wrong, it was one of the unreal moments in football history. 

When Bielsa allowed the opposition to score!

There was a game between Aston Villa and Leeds United. Both the teams started the match with high intensity with and without the ball. There were a lot of fouls, and the game was heating up. Fans at Ellan Road were fuming as they were feeling that some of the decisions were going against them. Temperatures were at the boiling point in the second half. 

Later in the second half, Leeds United got involved in another of the most controversial moments ever. A Villa player was down with an injury and was looking quite serious. Aston Villa players were appealing to stop the game, but Leeds continued to play well within their rights. Eventually Leeds United scored from the same play, and the protests from Villa players and staff were exploding. A ridiculous amount of pushing was going on in Villa’s penalty area. However, the goal was given, but Villa were fuming. 

Bielsa called a few players, including the captain near him and shouted some instructions. Nobody in the whole stadium was quite sure what was going on. To everyone’s surprise, Bielsa ordered his players to allow Aston Villa to equalize. Villa scored, and Leeds fans were shell shocked and could not believe what they just witnessed. Once again, in typical Bielsa manner, Bielsa and Leeds were involved in another extraordinary situation. This is another example of why the Argentine is known as the most honest man in football.

How Leeds United Won the Championship

The 2019-20 season was Leeds’s tenth consecutive season in the second division. There was hope and optimism along with disappointment and frustration of the season before as they lost on promotion despite leading the table for most of the season. The objective was clear, automatic promotion, and no involvement in the play-off mess. There were not many major incomings as the squad looked settled under a highly tactical side with Bielsa. However, The departure of Kemar Roofe raised a few eyebrows and uncertainty among the fans. 

In the 2019/20 season, Leeds’s improvement defensively was eye catching. The season before last they conceded 54 goals from an xGA of 47.04. It was clear that a step up was needed from a defensive perspective. Surprisingly, Leeds conceded only 35 goals which made the best team in the league for goals conceded. Leeds also kept an exceptional 22 clean sheets in the whole season. Leeds won 9 games with a 1-0 scoreline which signifies their defensive advancement. 

Offensively there were not many differences as Leeds scored one more goal than they scored the season before. However, the second season saw an increment in their xG with Leeds averaging 1.82 goals per game compared to 1.67 in the 2018/19 season. This signifies their lack of clinical ability last season but they kept creating chances that eventually saw them get the job done. 

Leeds remained at the top for nearly the whole season. The Whites were promoted to the Premier League on 17 July when West Bromwich Albion lost 1–2 against Huddersfield Town. A day later, Leeds were confirmed as league champions after Brentford suffered defeat at Stoke City.

Bielsa and his Leeds side celebrating promotion

Books on Marcelo Bielsa

This book is written by Journalist Tim Rich in which he has taken a look at Bielsa’s life since his younger days. Featuring interviews from across South America, Europe and Yorkshire, The Quality of Madness is a comprehensive and compelling biography, tracing Bielsa’s story from growing up as a member of one of Argentina’s most remarkable families to his revival of Leeds.

This book on Bielsa is written by Terzis Athanasios who is UEFA ‘A’ Licence Coach and has produced an extensive analysis of Marcelo Bielsa in 9 different tactical situations, supported with nine full training sessions (35 practices). 

The book includes Marcelo Bielsa’s tactics (and playing philosophy) for building up play from the back against high pressing teams with a full analysis of his 4-2-3-1, 3-3-3-1, and 3-4-3 formations. Marcelo Bielsa’s attacking philosophy includes a mix of short and long passing, moving the ball to the free player through ‘link players’, creating numerical advantages, dragging opposition players out of position, and exploiting the gaps created.

Marcelo Bielsa’s Contract and Net Worth

Marcelo Bielsa’s current contract sees him earn close to £6m a year. However, a new deal for the Argentine is looking inevitable after the club’s promotion. It is reported that the new deal would keep him at Ellan Road until 2022. The pay rise is expected to see an annual salary of £8m. Bielsa’s estimated net worth is $10 Million – $15 Million (Approx.).

Marcelo Bielsa Honors

Bielsa is also referred as, ‘The best coach who never wins’ by some fans. But he has won a lot of trophies. All of them are mentioned below.


  • Summer Olympics Tournament Gold Medal: 2004
  • CONMEBOL Pre-Olympic Tournament: 2004
  • Copa América runner-up: 2004

Newell’s Old Boys

  • Primera División Argentina: 1991 Apertura, 1992 Clausura
  • Copa Libertadores runner-up: 1992

Vélez Sarsfield

  • Primera División Argentina: 1998 Clausura

Athletic Bilbao

  • UEFA Europa League runner-up: 2011–12
  • Copa del Rey runner-up: 2011–12

Leeds United

  • EFL Championship: 2019–20

Individual Honours

  • IFFHS World’s Best National Coach: 2001
  • South American Coach of the Year: 2009
  • LMA Championship Manager of the Year: 2020
  • EFL Championship Manager of the Month: August 2018, November 2019, July 2020.
  • FIFA Fair Play Award: 2019

Marcelo Bielsa Quotes

Famous players and managers have expressed their affection and respect towards Bielsa. Some of them are mentioned below

Fernando Llorente

“At first he seems tough and he may even annoy you with his persistence and don’t take no for an answer, resilience but in the end he is a genius.”

Javi Martinez

“There are days when he doesn’t leave the training ground until the small hours, it is insane.”

Pep Guardiola

“My admiration for Marcelo Bielsa is huge because he makes the players much, much better. Still I didn’t meet one guy, a former player from Marcelo Bielsa who speaks no good of him. They are grateful about his influence on their careers in football. He helped me a lot with his advice. Whenever I speak with him I always feel like he wants to help me. He’s the best coach in the world.”

Mauricio Pochettino

“He is like my football father. We are a generation of coaches that were his disciples. How he feels football, the passion he has for football, I think we all took that from him.”

Johan Cruyff

“Marcelo Bielsa’s Chile played the most attractive football in this World Cup.” (2010)

Diego Simeone

“I have the influence of several coaches: Bielsa, Eriksson, Basile, they have all left a mark. Bielsa taught me the most.”

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.”

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.”

Diego Maradona

“For me what Bielsa has done is worthier than what Simeone has. Marcelo made a team out of nothing.”

Liam Rosenior

“This modus operandi has stemmed from Bielsa and I’m sure Guardiola and Pochettino would agree he was a key part of their football education, and if these young English players keep performing and improving under these principles – thus elevating our national team to new heights – then I for one will be raising a glass in appreciation to ‘El Loco’.”

Andrea Radrizzani

“He is a coach that I have admired for many years and when the opportunity arose to bring him to Elland Road, we made it our top priority for the summer. Marcelo has a wealth of experience and he will use that to create a new culture and a winning mentality at our football club.”

That’s Marcelo Bielsa for you!

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