Marcelo Bielsa is the messiah...
Marcelo Bielsa is the messiah... and he’s a very naughty boy.
Marcelo Bielsa has rapidly become Leeds’ saviour, in three short months turning a Leeds’ squad that looked staler than two loaves and three fish into a team that could feed the 2,000 Leeds fans who travelled to Pride Park more than they could ever have wished to eat.
His players believe in him to the point of running themselves to cramp in the home opener they were winning 3-1. He has eleven disciples on the pitch at all times, and now a twelfth in the stands. His goal is ascension to the Premier League and he, and his players, look prepared to sacrifice everything to get there.
Bielsa doesn’t appear to believe in any God other than himself. While that’s somewhat tongue in cheek, he’s certainly not a man who brooks compromise easily, once remarking that, "If you want to play with me you should do the job you're asked for, not the one you think you need."
He certainly doesn’t discuss religion in any specific way, despite his status as a sort of moral philosopher. Indeed, he might not even appreciate the comparison to the messiah, recognising as he does the limits of football in alleviating true suffering – “whatever joy we can give is not a substitute for the needs of the people.” I’m sure he’ll forgive Leeds fans if we are still exploring those limits after decades where football has only added to the misery though. We’re not quite ready to put this success in perspective just yet.
But he’s also proving that being the Messiah and being a very naughty boy are, contrary to popular myth, not necessarily mutually exclusive.
As Phil Hay wrote brilliantly in the YEP, he has ripped up the Championship rule book and forced a league famed as a ‘local shop for local people’ - brutally unforgiving to outsiders and the uninitiated - to adapt to him. But it goes beyond that. He may have mellowed from the grenade-brandishing days that gave him his nickname. But there still remains a touch of ‘El Loco’ in his unorthodox seating arrangements; his legally dubious placing of a coach in the stands; and his playfully deadpan answers during faintly ridiculous press-conferences.
Bielsa is actually sitting right at the front of class, staying late after work and compiling dossiers on every opponent in meticulous detail. And yet there’s a glint in his eye, right before he knows Roofe will head it into the net, or while he waits quietly for his answer to be translated back into English, that just lets you know he remembers what it was like to go for a crafty cig after DT.
He is Marcelo Bielsa, the very naughty boy of God.