The Athletic’s Leeds United reporter Phil Hay says that promotion would match Marcelo Bielsa’s exploits with Newell’s Old Boys as his biggest achievement in management.
Leeds are currently second in the Championship table, five points clear of the play-off places with ten games of the season remaining, having been transformed from a mid-table side to automatic promotion contenders since Bielsa took charge in the summer of 2018.
Bielsa previously won two Argentinean titles with Newell’s – who he also guided to a Copa Libertadores final in 1992 – and also won another Argentinean championship with Velez Sarsfield, while reaching to major finals with Athletic Bilbao.
Internationally, Bielsa also managed his native Argentina to a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, finishing runner up in the Copa America that same year.
Discussing where promotion to the Premier League with Leeds would rank in comparison to those previous achievements, it seems Hay believes this would be one of Bielsa’s finest, as speaking on The Athletic’s “The Phil Hay Show” Podcast, he said: “I don’t think it’ll be his biggest achievement – what he did with Newell’s was spectacular with what he did there but I think they both stand together.
“The fact that Leeds have been in this division for so long and struggled for so long, but also what he’s done with the squad and the way that he’s elevated it.”
Even if Leeds do not get promoted, Hay believes Bielsa’s spell at Leeds will still go down as one of his finest in management given the change he has brought around Elland Road, as he added: “This will go down as some of his finest coachings if they do get promoted and I have to say, even if they don’t.
“He can be so eccentric that you can almost picture him getting promoted and saying ‘that’s job done, so I’m off’, but at this point and after speaking to people close to him, I can’t see it.”
Indeed, it seems Hay is already rubbing his hands in anticipation at the prospect of the Argentine making the step up to the top-flight, as he concluded: “I can’t see him not wanting to play in the Premier League and see what he can do there, but also I can’t see Leeds not doing absolutely everything to make sure that they get his contract renegotiated and that this carries on, because it has to.”
I do think Hay has a point here.
When Bielsa first took over less than two years ago, Leeds were languishing in mid-table, and promotion to the Premier League still appeared some way away.
Now however, the prospect of a return to the top-flight looks a distinct possibility, and the impact Bielsa has had with his tactics and meticulous approach to each and every game has played a massive part in that, and it is no surprise to see the plaudits he has received for that.
With that in mind, there is certainly a strong argument to suggest that seeing this campaign through to promotion, would be as big an achievement as Bielsa has ever enjoyed.