Bielsa on Leeds United’s Premier League return and targets for the new season

If Jose Mourinho is the Special One and Jurgen Klopp the Normal One, then Marcelo Bielsa is undoubtedly the Humble One.

Bielsa could not be more modest about his Elland Road revolution as Leeds prepare for their first game in the Premier League for 16 years on Saturday

But then this is a man who swapped his plush hotel suite near Leeds’ Thorp Arch training ground for a flat above a sweet shop in the nearby town of Wetherby.

He even argued with the landlord that he should pay more rent because he felt it was too low.

While one of his acolytes Pep Guardiola loves to wear Dsquared2 designer gear, Bielsa is always seen in his club tracksuit.

The Argentinian is a familiar sight in Costa in Wetherby, poring over analysis on his laptop, or walking the 15 minutes to Thorp Arch, even when it rains.

He was embarrassed when Leeds fans mobbed him outside his flat the night the club sealed promotion and is keen to downplay his achievements.

“I don’t share the opinion that I have changed the structure of the team,” he said. “When I arrived, the club had the necessary structures to compete at a good level.

“All the areas of the club were running how they should.

“It is difficult for me to say how winning last season ranks because I’ve not won many trophies and the ones I did were a long time ago.”

Other coaches might have used delivering promotion as leverage to earn a lucrative new deal.

But Bielsa has never been motivated by money and instead left it to his brother and lawyer, Rafael, who is a former Argentine foreign minister, to sort out while he focused on pre-season.

His new 12-month deal, worth around £8million, comfortably makes him the highest-paid manager in Leeds’ history, but from that sum he pays his own backroom staff, whom he hires personally.

Leeds fans love him and he has firmly consigned the ‘Dirty Leeds’ tag from the 1960s and 70s to history and even rival supporters are excited to see this proper club back in the top flight.

Yet he modestly appears to be oblivious to all this.

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“I don’t know what people thought about Leeds prior to me being here and I don’t know what they think now,” he said.

Bielsa, 65, is adored for his style as much as his success and he says Leeds will stay true to their their possession-based, high-pressing football.

“One of the difficulties we will face this season is to continue to play the way we want,” he said.

“To begin with, we will try to play the same way.

“This is the best league in the world and it requires you to play at the highest level.”

Champions Liverpool at Anfield has every Leeds fan salivating, but Bielsa feels it will not be the same without fans.

“They are worthy champions, without doubt one of the best teams in the world,” he said.

“We are going to play at Anfield, but Anfield is not Anfield if it is not full.”

Despite coaching the likes of his beloved Newell’s Old Boys in his home city of Rosario, Argentina, Chile, Marseille, Athletic Bilbao and Lille during his 40-year coaching career, Bielsa admits he will be anxious before kick-off.

“I always get nervous before playing,” he said. “I worry when I’m not scared or nervous.”

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