There are moments of surreal joy over the past two seasons – culminating in July’s final jubilations – that many of us will reflect on in years to come. And whether that’s Pablo Hernandez’s late winner at Swansea, or playoff meltdown versus Derby, the inescapable theme that will endure is the tale of Marcelo Bielsa: the boss, El Loco, God. It’s his head-to-toe revitalisation of the club, along with his idiosyncrasies, that have brought joy to Elland Road’s terraces.
Once this season ends, will Bielsa remain as Leeds’ manager? He succeeded in his task of promotion and has fired opening shots at the Premier League, but one season could be all we have left as he strives to cement of top-flight status. It’s hard to say we don’t praise, idolise or deify him enough already, but it is time we savoured these moments with one of sport’s great tacticians at our helm.
So what can we carry on enjoying this season? The continuation of the Bielsa press for certain. Against world class players we could still find ourselves on the end of drubbings, but the opening weeks give cause for belief that we can claim victory against the elite. Whatever happens, once again the squad is fit, determined and willing to run themselves into the ground.
As the season continues, we’ll see endurance-testing press conferences and we’ll hang on every word. We’ll see walks from Wetherby, 13 steps in the dugout, and the bucket. We’ll see youth stepping up in academy status and bringing promise for the future. We’ll see new signings sculpted in Marcelo’s mantra – tactically and physically, as they shed the pounds. And we’ll see players improving themselves relentlessly because that’s what Bielsa does; he takes players with the right attitude and improves them. If he has one legacy, perhaps that’s it. Whether that’s turning Phillips into an England international, leaving League 1 Liam’s tag behind, or even stopping Alioski racing offside, the players he took under his wing are better now than they ever were.
‘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,’ said Fernando Llorente. He’s improved players everywhere he’s been. How will our players talk about him after he leaves? Which players will fulfil careers at higher levels because of his tutorship? Many more, no doubt.
Bar promotion with us, he’s always managed to define the barrier between himself and his players, and to keep football and personalities apart. So perhaps the players will have a real day to look forward to when they retire: ‘I’m going to be your friend the day you retire’, he once told Christian Domizzi of Newell’s Old Boys.
Bielsa once said, ‘Does it make any sense that I want the earth to swallow me as a result of a football match?’
He feels the emotion and knows the heartache that football can bring. And we may - like the widows of Chile before us - find the earth swallowing us too when he departs. So will it ever be fair to convince him to stay longer? We’ll selfishly say yes and only he can decide. But having kept him as ours for over 100 matches shows that Radrizzani, Kinnear and Orta have steadied our ship and met his requests. We can thank them for that. Whatever happens, hereafter Leeds fans will find themselves on pilgrimage to Argentina, to Rosario, to Newell’s Old Boys – the club in Marcelo’s heart, now bound in ours.
We’re living through history, so the cliché goes. This is Leeds United’s history – one that’s well and truly formed in imago Bielsa (or imago dei, some might say). Let’s enjoy every minute that’s left like it’s our last. Let’s strap ourselves in for our shot in the limelight with Marcelo Bielsa leading the charge.
Marchando Juntos siempre.
Written by: @OneClubCityLUFC