Struggling Leeds sack manager Marcelo Bielsa


Marcelo Bielsa watches Leeds play against Tottenham at Elland Road © AFP / Jon Super

London (AFP), February 27 – Leeds United sacked manager Marcelo Bielsa on Sunday following a poor run of results that left the Premier League side staggering just two points above the relegation zone.

Saturday’s disheartening 4-0 loss to Tottenham at Elland Road was their fourth successive defeat, a run in which their elusive defense conceded 17 goals.

The 66-year-old Argentine remained convinced he could turn things around, but the Leeds board decided he needed to act to preserve his top-flight status.

The club intend to make an announcement regarding Bielsa’s successor on Monday, with former RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg boss Jesse Marsch the clear favorites to take over.

Chairman Andrea Radrizzani said he was forced to act due to the club’s “precarious position” in the Premier League, saying it had been the most difficult decision of his tenure at Leeds.

“With Marcelo as head coach, we had three incredible campaigns and the good times came back to Elland Road,” he said. “He changed the culture of the club and brought a winning mentality to all of us.

“The moments created, especially in the 2019/20 season and the winning promotion in the Premier League, will of course live long in all our memories, myself and the fans included.

“However, I have to act in the best interests of the club and I believe a change is needed now in order to secure our Premier League status.”

Bielsa, who took the reins in 2018 and returned the club to the English top flight two years later, is revered at Leeds.

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Murals of the Argentine Mercurial adorn the walls of the northern city and the club’s Elland Road stadium.

– Premier League ‘promised land’ –

After ending Leeds’ 16-year absence from the Premier League, Bielsa finished ninth in his first season back in swashbuckling style.

But their second campaign in the top flight was hampered by injuries to key men such as striker Patrick Bamford, midfielder Kalvin Phillips and captain Liam Cooper.

Bielsa’s tactics and refusal to change from his renowned attacking style have also been criticized – the 60 goals they have conceded are by far the worst in the Premier League.

Nicknamed ‘El Loco’ (the mad man), the former Argentina and Chile boss is used to walking away rather than being fired.

In his three previous jobs, he quit after Marseille’s first game of the season in 2015, lasted two days as Lazio boss a year later and a few months at Lille. His stay at Leeds was the longest at a club of his managerial career.

Bielsa leaves with the club in 16th position, two points from safety and in real danger of falling back into the Championship.

Players and Leeds fans paid warm tribute to the late boss, often seen sitting in a pitchside ‘bucket’ seat or crouching down.

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“You saw in me what I didn’t even see in myself,” England international Phillips posted on Instagram, while Bamford tweeted that Bielsa “changed everything for everyone”.

The Leeds United Supporters’ Trust said in an open letter that the late boss transformed his team into “one of the most entertaining teams in world football” after taking charge in 2018.

“The next three and a half years were a story none of us could have written,” the Trust said. “Triumph, failure and redemption. A return to the promised land.

US manager Marsch, 48, has been out of work since leaving RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga last year, but is best known for his work at New York Red Bulls and RB Salzburg.

Leeds are next in action when they visit Leicester on Saturday.

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