Bielsa denies Leeds contract rumour; plays down idea of European football

Marcelo Bielsa Leeds manager touchline crouch

Marcelo Bielsa has denied that he has already agreed a contract extension with Leeds United, promising to reveal any information himself if the situation develops.

Reports in his native Argentina this week suggested that Bielsa had agreed a two-year extension to his contract as Leeds boss. That would take him into a fourth and fifth season in West Yorkshire. He is currently in his third year as Leeds head coach but his contract expires in the summer.

As the man who guided Leeds back to the Premier League, Bielsa is revered at Elland Road. However, he tends to commit his future season by season rather than for the longer term.

Hence, when news emerged that he was set to sign up for another two seasons, it would have been warmly received by the Leeds faithful.

But Bielsa has denied those claims, confirming that fans must wait for an official announcement.

“That information is not real. I ignore the origin,” he said. “Those things, either the club can say or I can say it. We possess the information.

“In all cases, if there was any information to give, I would give it.”

Bielsa’s first season in the Premier League is going relatively well. Leeds are currently 10th in the table and can begin planning for another year in the top flight.

The prospect of a top-half finish would enhance Bielsa’s legacy even more. However, he played down his achievements in relation to the club’s history.

“I have always said the dimension of the institution at Leeds is very big,” he said.

“The sporting past of Leeds is full of high points. To win four games in a row in the Premier League [if they win on Monday] compared to all the things Leeds has achieved, of course it would give us great happiness. But if you compare it to the past, it’s not so big.

“To be able to be at the height of the past, some extraordinary things need to be done and we are quite far away from that.”

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Their performances in recent weeks have been a step in the right direction, though. They most recently stunned champions-elect Manchester City, even playing with 10 men.

It was one of the biggest results Leeds have achieved since returning to the top flight and Bielsa explained how they managed it.

“The first half [against City], the part most convenient to analyse, we were balanced in the initial 15 minutes,” Bielsa said. “We were dominated in the final 30 of the first half, but the sum of the first half was not positive.

“The second half left some valuable things for the analysis. The team defended very well. The 10 players, the way they defended, deserves to be praised, in my opinion.

“When we had the ball, we tried to play. We managed to create two situations of danger – the goals and Raphinha’s one-on-one. It was not a lot, but it was valuable given the type of game we played.

“The summary of the first half: they were superior, we were overcome. Second half: it was an exercise in character, conviction, personality and, for me, the team passed those tests.”

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The next challenge for Leeds will be to try to stop last season’s champions Liverpool. They pushed them hard in their opening game of the season but still fell to defeat.

Bielsa retains a major admiration of the way their opponents play.

“I like to watch Liverpool play,” he said. “They always play in the same manner. For me, that’s big praise for a team.

“There’s no player in their team not prepared to receive the ball and manage it anywhere.

“They have a big offensive power; their full-backs are wingers, their wingers are centre-forwards, throughout moments in the game. Their midfielders on the inside attack out wide or on the inside in the same manner.

“There’s three players providing defensive balance with the two centre-backs and defensive midfielder. They’re a team constantly producing good football.

“They spend a lot of time attacking and not so much defending. And like every team, they have ups and downs.”

Bielsa quashes Europe question

The Leeds boss was then asked how long it might be until the club are in contention to return to Europe again. They have done well against some of the bigger sides this season.

However, Bielsa brought some perspective into the discussion.

“If we guide ourselves from what’s happened this season, from the results or performances, we can see against the traditional top six, only against Arsenal were we able to play against equals in the first half of the home game,” he said. “The second half of that game [0-0 draw at home in November] we played with one man more.

“In the game against Manchester United, we did not deserve a better result. Perhaps the margin should not have been so high, but they deserved their win. The same with Tottenham.

“The two Chelsea games were difficult especially the first. The draw against Chelsea we deserved, but in a game they dominated we did not deserve to win it.

“The two games against Manchester City, at home the draw was fair and in the first half of this game [last Saturday] they were better than us and in the second we were a man down.

“My conclusions are not the same as yours. We haven’t been able to play as equals against the traditional top six. To anticipate when this will happen is not prudent.

“These types of things, more than announce them, you have to demonstrate them and up until now we haven’t managed it.”

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