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Bielsa the Messiah

Bielsa the Messiah

Leeds fans worshipped Marcelo Bielsa. Did he deserve their adoration?

A 3-0 defeat to another team facing relegation. A 4-2 loss to a side struggling for form. 

Then, a 6-0 loss, followed by a 4-0 loss. 

They were Marcelo Bielsa’s last four games in charge of Leeds. 

His record this season added up to five wins, eight draws and 13 losses, with a goal difference of minus 31. Leaving them in real danger of relegation.

So, you might think that Leeds fans would’ve been glad to see the back of him after he agreed to leave. 

But instead, last weekend, they sang his name.

“Marcelo Bielsa! (Leeds) Marcelo Bielsa! (Leeds) Marcelo Bielsa! (Leeds) Marcelo Bielsa! (Leeds).”

Matty Magee

New manager Jesse Marsch was asked about the affection shown towards the man he’d replaced. 


“Even driving in here I saw the little sign that said “Gracias Marcelo Bielsa”…I just met with some of the groups and they said to me – it was really nice – they said to me you know, we’re gonna chant Marcelo’s name probably in the game in Leicester and and probably at home in the game against Aston Villa. And I said absolutely no problem. Right? When you’re at a club with big history, and when the fan base is so passionate, I want you guys to express your love for what he did…” 

Clunn1989

Alongside this outpouring of love from Leeds fans, the club confirmed they were working on a permanent tribute to Marcelo Bielsa. 

The man they had just fired.

Most supporters would be pleased to see a manager replaced after  such a dire run of recent results. 

One that threatened to undo all the work he had previously done to secure promotion back to the Premier League.

But this was no ordinary relationship between fans and manager. 

“I’m a bit disappointed wi’ board to be honest. I don’t think they’ve held their nerve very well and I think they’ve bottled it. We wouldn’t have gone down with him. And if we had’ve gone down with him I’d have gone down with him and he’d have brought us straight back up.”

City of Leeds Fans

In 2018, Leeds United reporter Phil Hay wrote about the “cult” of Marcelo Bielsa. 

And by the time he left the club, he said that Marcelo Bielsa had become a “messianic figure” in the city, but that he could “only turn water into wine for so long.”

So why did Leeds fans fall head over heels for him?

“Under Bielsa, different level of football as well. When I like to watch on telly, no fans, and they’ve been brilliant. To get the fans in here and watch that sort of football, it’s like going back years when you used to watch Arsenal… I used to say to our lass, d’ya know, I wish Leeds would play like Arsenal did ten years ago. Now Bielsa’s got us doing that…”

101 Great Goals

An exciting style of play, winning games 5-4 with little care for defending, and a long-awaited promotion. Those are the more obvious reasons why manager Marcelo Bielsa stole the hearts of Leeds fans.

There was also a quirkiness, always speaking through a translator, sitting on an upturned bucket on the sidelines, and he made an effort to be a part of the local community too. 

Here’s Leeds number nine Patrick Bamford.

“The fact that he got all the boys litter picking, I think not many managers would make you do that and it was kind of to teach the lads and teach the team what kind of privilege we have.”

BBC Shirt

Not everyone’s a convert though. Stan Collymore is a firm atheist when it comes to the cult of Marcelo Bielsa. 

He says the Argentine coach is a “hipster’s wet dream.”

And that’s because of Marcelo Bielsa’s record. He hasn’t got  many trophies in the cabinet. He’s won the league in Argentina three times. 

He’s won an Olympic gold medal with the Argentinian national team, and he’s won the Championship with Leeds.

No Champions League or Europa League titles. No wins in a major European league.

That’s despite Pep Guardiola’s assertion that he’s the “best coach in the world.” 

Is this beginning to sound a bit like the “cult”? 

Maybe. 

And just like with any cult, you need to have absolute faith. 

Just like Leeds fans had in Marcelo Bielsa.

Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Imy Harper.