Ian Harte has backed David O’Leary’s babies to overcome the class of 2019/20 at Leeds United, despite the factor of Marcelo Bielsa and his unique style of play.
Leeds took Europe by storm under O’Leary around the turn of the Millennium, reaching a UEFA Cup semi-final in 2000 and then getting to the same stage of the Champions League the following year. In addition to that, the Whites were challenging at the top of the Premier League table, but trophies evaded them.
The left-back in O’Leary’s side was Harte, an Irish international with a wicked left-foot and regularly involved in goalscoring matters; in 288 appearances across all competitions, Harte struck 39 goals, including 11 in 2000/01.
At Elland Road now, Marcelo Bielsa is leading a different battle to O’Leary, with Leeds looking to win promotion back to the Premier League for the first time since 2004. Whilst they are at a different level, their style of play, energy and willingness to buy into Bielsa’s methods makes them an awkward project.
This week Football League World caught up with Harte, who was keen to drill home how much he’d like to see his era go up against Bielsa’s side.
“What would be interesting would be that team Leeds had in the Champions League going up against the Bielsa side,” Harte admitted.
“Oliver Dacourt in the midfield, Lee Bowyer, Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Jonathan Woodgate, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Kelly, Danny Mills – that team against Bielsa’s team would be very interesting.
“I’d love that, I think we’d beat them, honestly.”
O’Leary’s side were the nearly-men of the early Millennium, with Leeds falling short in Europe and on the domestic stage. To many, it is a great shame that such a vibrant group couldn’t get their hands on any silverware, which could’ve shaped the club’s recent history a lot differently.
Bielsa’s career in coaching has taken a similar path, with the 64-year-old not boasting a large amount of trophies despite his standing in world football.
When quizzed on whether he and his teammates might’ve thrived under Bielsa, Harte offered an interesting take: “It was so many years ago, it’s a bit like Jose Mourinho when he first came to England it was refreshing to see his style, but now it has all kind of changed when you look at the styles of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
“Players want to be loved, they need a kick up the arse at times, but they like an arm around them, a cuddle and someone saying ‘I love what you’re doing’.
“David O’Leary was amazing during the time we had. I’ve no idea what we’d have been like under Bielsa, but under David O’Leary it was brilliant.”