Marcelo Bielsa has again paid homage to goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, this time for helping first-choice stopper Illan Meslier settle in this season.
Spaniard Casilla has endured a tough time of late, after receiving an eight-match racism ban last season. In doing so, he subsequently lost his place to then-loan star Meslier. However, Meslier earned a permanent deal after impressing and has become the club’s number one between the posts.
As a result, Casilla has had to wait for further opportunities. One such chance came in September’s Carabao Cup defeat to Hull.
Bielsa made the 34-year-old his captain, but he was partly at fault for their exit to the Tigers and the manager offered a staunch defence of the player.
After further struggles for game time, Bielsa opened up on what he has learnt from his squad after their first season back in the Premier League.
Speaking in Friday’s press conference (via Leeds Live), Bielsa said: “I have already made reference to their conduct, behaviour, values, professionalism.
“The way they interpret their profession. Football has things that are pleasing, but some not so. Always, from the group there is adequate responses.”
He added on Casilla: “A lot of what Meslier could achieve this year is linked to how Casilla lived through it with him. They way he collaborated with him, the keepers are a group within the group with a special coach and the keepers where they spend two hours together between four of them, not 20.
“They need each other. The climate of the training is responsible from very few people. His support was very influential in this. Apart from that, he managed with a lot of fortitude the treatment he received through the incident he had to go through.
“It gave me great pleasure to see him play the game without having played against Southampton.”
Bielsa’s message to Leeds fans
Leeds play West Brom at Elland Road on Sunday in their final game of the season. Amid the changes in England’s coronavirus regulations, fans will be back in the stadium for the first time this season.
“It’s a homage they totally deserve,” Bielsa said. “It’s by chance they are able to play in front of the fans. Very good luck this way. It wouldn’t have been fair if they weren’t able to live that moment.
“The achievements of the team pass as an objective the happiness of the fans. Other teams also, but Leeds especially. The public is something that helps to get the achievement.
“A good opportunity for us linked to the energy that originates from the fans, especially in the difficulties. The supporters of Leeds make themselves present and they add something to help the team. I say what I think even if it sounds demagogy.”