There’s that scene in Monty Python’s seminal classic ‘The Life of Brian’ where the eponymously named character becomes an accidental messiah to a group who see him as the new Christ. He’s chased by a mob who worship him. In football terms, Brian is Marcelo Bielsa.
Unless you have been living under a rock the past near-two weeks, Leeds United are in advanced talks and discussions to fill the vacant managerial position at Elland Road. The man pursued for filling that position is Argentine coaching legend Marcelo Bielsa.
Actually, I’ll reel in the hyperbole and settle for high-profile Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa. Actually that is probably closer to the mark in more than one way, especially when you consider what has gone before.
Since Massimo Cellino freed the Whites from the yoke of GFH Capital, Leeds United have eaten their way through a number of head coaches, managers…call them what you like. This was a list headed initially by David Hockaday, included gems such as Darko Milanic and Uwe Rosler, before petering out with Paul Heckingbottom just shy of a fortnight away.
That’s when the Bielsa buzz started bubbling up, and what a buzz it is. In that litany of despair listing Hockaday to Heckingbottom with stops in between. It’s not all been the stuff of disasters, Steve Evans stabilised a rocking boat and Garry Monk sailed it onwards smoothly. But Bielsa is simply different gravy.
He’s managed a side in Athletic Bilbao that tore Manchester United a new one on a charge to the Europa League Final. He’s managed both Chile and his native Argentina in World Cup finals. This is NOT the prestige of manager that Leeds United fans are used to being linked with, it’s the stuff of Twitter troll accounts and addled ITKs.
But this is real interest, and it is interest that creeps ever forward like the mists of a gloomy Northern evening. This is a man held in high regard by some very high-profile coaches. This is a man who brought the beautiful fluidity of a 3-3-1-3 formation into football with a defined style and panache. This is a man who simply seems too big for Leeds United.
But is he?
Or should we invert the statement and ask if Leeds United are big enough for him?
Remember, this is a man who has managed an Argentina side in the World Cup who contained the likes of Juan Sebatian Veron, Hernan Crespo and Gabriel Batistuta. Remember this is a man who got Chile out of the group stage of the 2010 World Cup. Remember this is a man who coaches the likes of Pep Guardiola term as the best in the world.
He’s invented systems of football that Leeds United fans have never seen on a field beyond either FIFA or Football Manager. He lectures on football at conferences and has people hanging off of his every word. He once confronted rival fans massing at his house by walking out clutching a hand grenade – or so the story goes.
This is a man, and a manager, of stature – a stature far above what Leeds fans are used to. But the question still begs to be answered, are Leeds United big enough for him, because he is too big in many ways for Leeds United.
Should Bielsa sign on at Elland Road, and indicators are that is likely to happen, then it is undoubtedly a coup of grand proportions. In many ways it is a coming together of beautiful, almost graceful, symbiosis. The big manager, a giant in the coaching world in many ways, joining what is a big club.
Let’s not get away from this fact, Leeds United are a big club. They have been dragged around like the soon-to-be-decapitated traitors were before the kings of old lopped off their noggins. A succession of owners such as Ken Bates, GFH Capital and Massimo Cellino have left a rag-tag entity behind – although Cellino did do more than GFH did, even accompanied by his maverick behaviour and unpredictability.
Leeds United have been pilloried by fans of other clubs, the harshness of treatment handed out to them by what were shabby custodians leaving something of a battered side. Despite having all this kicked out of them, one thing remains constant beneath and always will.
Leeds United are a big club, potential-wise and history-wise. A strong and stable heart beats at the centre of the club, a beat that can be heard throbbing on the terraces of a packed Elland Road come rain, come shine; come glorious win, come bitter loss. You only have to look at the fans that flock to both home and away games to see one thing – a simple thing.
Leeds United ARE a big club.
Marcelo Bielsa IS a big manager.
Leeds United might have just found the messianic coach that they, and their fans, have been holding out for.
Ignore the doubters and the naysayers – Bielsa IS the Messiah.