Marcelo Bielsa has done a brilliant job at Leeds, taking them back into the top flight and managing to keep them up with one of the smallest wage bills in the Premier League.
However, after Leeds conceded 20 goals in February – the most ever by any Premier League side in a single month – and with them hovering above the relegation with one point from the last six games, the writing appears to be on the wall.
According to reports, Bielsa’s departure will be announced imminently.
Such is the success and goodwill that Bielsa and his idiosyncratic methods have generated in the West Riding, however, it seems entirely plausible that the club will want to replace the Argentine with someone who approaches the game in a similar way.
Former RB Leipzig manager Jesse Marsch is the frontrunner to replace the legendary El Loco – which makes sense given his preference for high-intensity football – but there are other more direct disciples of his playing style.
Bielsa has been hugely influential and has generated a school of coaches referred to as ‘Bielsistas’, who, to differing degrees, implement the methods he pioneered.
Here, we take a look at seven managers who fit the Biesista mould and who Leeds could potentially recruit once Bielsa himself moves on, which is inevitable at some point, even if not immediately.
Unsurprisingly, this list has a distinctively Argentinian flavour to it.
The most famous name of the seven by far, Crespo was a brilliant footballer in his pomp. He’s also becoming a fine manager and has already won trophies with Defensa y Justicia in his homeland and Brazilian giants Sao Paulo.
After early success at Sao Paulo, Crespo did run into a few issues – though they may well have had more to do with the club than him. He left by mutual agreement in October 2021, meaning he’s currently available for work.
Moving to take his first European club coaching job at Leeds would be a massive step, but Crespo has experience of playing at the very top level, so we doubt that would faze him too much.
Corberan was already a coach at Leeds when Bielsa arrived in 2018 and clearly absorbed a lot from the Argentine visionary, working in a dual Under–23 and first-team assistant role.
In 2020, he told Coaches’ Voice: “Working with Marcelo was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When people ask me what it’s like to work with him, there is always something I emphasise – with Marcelo, you can only learn.
“He questions and analyses everything to a microscopic degree, and that enhances your development.
“It was a marvellous experience. On a sporting level, we finally managed to win promotion back to the Premier League. On a personal level, those were two years of amazing growth for me.”
Since leaving to become head coach at Huddersfield, Corberan has not had it all easy. In 2020-21, the Terriers skirted dangerously close to the drop.
But in 2021-22, things have improved considerably and, at the time of writing, Huddersfield sit third in the Championship table.
Corberan is familiar with the Leeds set-up and staff, knows English football and has worked closely with the man himself. Certainly an option to watch.
Like Bielsa, Sampaoli is a former manager of the Argentinian and Chilean national teams, and he is perhaps the biggest Bielsismo purist of them all.
His Argentina squad was utterly unsuited to his high-octane brand of football and bombed embarrassingly at the 2018 World Cup.
But Sampaoli has since rebuilt his reputation with Santos and Atletico Mineiro in Brazil before moving to Marseille – again following in Bielsa’s footsteps – in summer 2021.
Marseille have played some exhilarating football this term as he’s jittered up and down the touchline, barking like a heavily tattooed pitbull. If Leeds could tempt him away, he’d be a perfect fit.
Jorge Sampaoli Going full football factory 🤣 if there’s a fella more intense than Bielsa it’s this fella pic.twitter.com/TCw9g8UVxF
— Taylr 🐎 (@tayz2017) August 22, 2021
If they couldn’t tempt Sampaoli away, though, they could go for his former assistant Beccacece.
The Argentine 41-year-old never played professionally, going directly into coaching and joining forces with Sampaoli in 2003, aged 23.
He stayed with his compatriot as an assistant at a series of clubs and with the Chilean as well as Argentinian national teams. He has also done good work as a head coach, though, especially at Buenos Aires club Defensa y Justicia, where he is currently enjoying a third spell as boss.
It’d be a hell of a left-field appointment, but Beccacece does fit the Bielsista bill.
A relatively lesser-known name, Torrente’s status as a Bielsa disciple is indisputable – so much so that his feature in Coaches’ Voice was headlined ‘The Bielsista’.
The Rosario native is a well-travelled coach, having taken charge of over 12 clubs since he started out as a first-team manager in 2007, including a stint at Bielsa’s beloved Newell’s Old Boys.
Torrente’s career as a manager follows spells served as Bielsa’s assistant at Atlas, Velez Sarsfield, Espanyol, Argentina and Marseille, but he’s been keen to stress he has his own ideas.
“The ‘Bielsa stamp’, like is said about all of us who have worked with him,” the Argentinian wrote in the Coaches’ Voice.
“In football, though, you can’t coach using someone else’s little book. In the end, copies don’t work.
That doesn’t mean to say there aren’t things I do in a similar way to Marcelo, but in others I distance myself because my characteristics are different. It would be an enormous lack of respect on my part to want to compare myself with Marcelo. You just have to look at where he has got to and what he has achieved.”
The 52-year-old recently served his first job in Europe, but was sacked earlier this month with Beerschot bottom of the Belgian top-flight. Hey, at least he’s free.
Ignoring Heinze’s ignominious last stint at Atlanta – he failed to replicate the success of his compatriot Gerardo Martino and was sacked after just 13 games following reports of a toxic dressing room fallout – the former Manchester United full-back looks a promising coach.
Back in Argentina, the young coach led Argentinos Juniors to promotion and twice qualified Velez Sarsfield for the Copa Sudamericana. Heinze has spoken on numerous occasions about his respect and admiration for Bielsa, who gave him his Argentina debut back in 2003.
Shortly after Bielsa arrived in Leeds, Gabriel Heinze spoke about him.
He is not usually the kindest man with the press, but look at his face when he talks about Bielsa. 😍
I think he will be one of the best in the future.
— Juani Jimena (@JimenaJuani) April 13, 2020
Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, alongside the likes of Mauricio Pochettino and Eduardo Berizzo, was a key member of Bielsa’s legendary Argentinian-title winning Newell’s side of the early 90s.
Like many of those that learned their trade working under Bielsa, Martino has taken some ideas from the high priest of the high press but adapted them into a more pragmatic, measured approach.
Currently in charge of Mexico, Martino’s coaching career saw him take the helm at Barcelona and Argentina before enjoying great success at newly-formed MLS side Atlanta United between 2016 and 2018.