Marcelo “el Loco” Bielsa. Love him or hate him, the Argentine character has a story or 6 following him; Spygate, attending gala dinners in the Leeds tracksuit and of course, confronting angry fans with a grenade are just a few from the top of my head.
A man that is obsessed with analytics and data – he has been known to recite opponent’s formations and details from the previous season, whilst completing spreadsheets on his opponents to give his sides the edge. Many footballing fans across the world are split on Bielsa; some adore his footballing brain and analytical approach, others believe if he was as good as he is made out to be, he would have done better at clubs he had managed.
And it would be pretty difficult to argue against that. When you take a look at the history of Bielsa, the list of achievements is not one to be envious of:
A man that can only boast about 3 league titles and a host of runners-up medals through international tournaments or domestic cups, it comes as no surprise that many are sceptical of Marcelo Bielsa. But could you be the one to get over on the “Crazy One”?
Marcelo Bielsa has had the luxury of managing across three continents whilst having two national sides on his CV. Can you follow in his footsteps across the world and achieve more?
Coaching Badges – Bielsa went straight into youth coaching after playing the game for a couple of years. As a result of this, starting off with a National A Licence should prove challenging enough, whilst keeping the door open to Mexico.
Past Playing Experience – Again, given the fact that Bielsa was a professional player amassing over 100 games, Professional Football (National Level) should be your starting point.
Manager Style Focus – Regarded by some as one of the best tactical minds in the game, it is only fair that this should be your Style Focus also.
Time spent at a club – This should mirror how long Bielsa spent in charge in that league. When that time is up, you must resign as manager and await for a job opportunity in the next nation.
Where It All Began…
To kick things off in this challenge, you will be going back to where it all started in Rosario, Argentina to take over Newell’s Old Boys. However, times have changed, and the old league format has moved to a move traditional league format.
With the change in formats, and Bielsa winning both the Apertura & Clausura in his first senior role, can you win his equivalent, the league title, with Newell’s Old Boys inside the first two seasons? At the start of the game, they are predicted to finish 13th so it will not be an easy task. Bielsa managed runners-up in the Liberatodes during his first spell in Argentina, will you be able to push for a Libertadores invitation in your first season and upset the odds the next?
Viva la Mexico!
Bielsa spent 3 seasons in Mexico, 2 with Atlas and 1 with Club América, but there was no success on the cards for him at either club. Mexican football has been totally revamped since the 90, from group tournaments to the traditional Argentine style of Apertura and Clausura stages. With that in mind, your goal in Mexico is to attempt to win silverware within 3 seasons. Perhaps you can go one further and win one of the North American continental competitions?
After his unsuccessful spell in Mexico, Bielsa took charge of Véles Sarsfield and led them to a Torneo Clausura in his lone season in charge. Are you able to do the same for a second time? Can you take another team to a league title? Remember about that Copa Libertadores as well, this will be your last chance of winning it depending on how you fare with Newell’s at the start. Perhaps this will be a deciding factor in your club selection…?
¡Bienvenido a España!
Bielsa was probably most well known for his time at Athletic Bilbao, but it never brought great success during his 2 years here. 2 runners-up medals for his troubles, Bielsa struggled to make an impact on the league and struggled to close the gap on Spain’s elite in cup finals. Can you be the one that breaks the mould? Can you take a side outside Barcelona, Real Madrid & Atletico Madrid, and compete in the league – Bielsa could only manage a 10th place finish. Can you win a cup competition along the way?
A brief stop in France was next on the list for Bielsa as he took over Marseille for a season. However, like managerial jobs before him, this one did not work out as he recorded a 4th placed finish and exited the cups early doors.
Probably one of the more challenging nations on the challenge, could you do better with a French side; PSG are looking for some competition in the league, but a cup would look pretty in the cabinet also.
The Downfall of Murderball
And finally, over to his most recent stint in charge, England. Marcelo took over as Leeds manager on the 15th June 2018 following a disappointing season; Leeds recorded a 13th placed finish in the Championship, and exited both the FA Cup and EFL Cup in the Third and Fourth Rounds respectively. In his first season in charge, Leeds ended the season in disappointing fashion, recording just 4 points from the final 15 points available, and this slump in form cost them automatic promotion to the Premier League as they finished 3rd. Derby then proved too strong in the semi-finals of the play-ffs, winning 4-3 on aggregate, and Leeds would have to settle for another season in the Championship.
The year of COVID struck, but that would not hold Leeds back as they went on to win the Championship, ending a 10-season-stay in the Championship, at the cost of poorer cup performances; Leeds exited the FA Cup and the EFL Cup in the Third and Second round.
So within two seasons in the Championship, Marcelo could muster up a league title, but no cup run – can you do better in the Championship? Can you take over a Championship side and win the league at the first time of asking? The glory of the FA Cup is perhaps a bit out of there with the quality gap between top-flight and Championship, but could you make the fans dream?
Leeds and Marcelo managed to grow accustom to Premier League life in their first season back, as they pushed right to the end for a place in Europe – their results against the big teams were something to behold, but ultimately it was results against teams around them and lower that cost Leeds a Conference League spot, and finished 9th in their first season back.
With the highs of their first season back firmly on the mind of all footballing fans, many expected Leeds to carry their form and the Murderball philosophy into the new season but it wasn’t to be. Leeds struggled to get going from the start of the season, having to wait until October to record their first win of the campaign. Where Leeds competed with the top clubs last season, they fell miles short of those standards during this campaign, shipping 7 to Manchester City, 6 to Liverpool, 5 to Manchester United and 4 to Tottenham. February was the telling month after shipping 24 goals between January 22nd and February 26th, Marcelo was then sacked on the 27th February leaving the club 2 points above the relegation zone.
Which then sets the standards. In Marcelo’s first Premier League season, his tactics and philosophy were enough to rocket Leeds into a European race – can you emulate something similar or go further beyond? It certainly isn’t easy at all, but you could strike lucky with your team of choice from the Championship, and with the right recruitment, could send a message to the rest of England. In his season and a half stint at Leeds, Marcelo’s best position was 9th in the Premier League with the Third and Fourth round in the FA Cup and EFL Cup being as far as Leeds got, can you take them further than that in two full seasons in the Premier League
Between both Argentina and Chile, Marcelo spent 10 years as a national team manager, with only an Olympics gold medal to show for it. He may have been the catalyst for an impressive Chile in the years that followed him, but immediate success is the key measurement in football at the end of the day.
Can you emulate Argentina’s gold medal performance at the 2004 Olympics? Could you be the manager that achieves Copa América glory; something that Marcelo could not? Could you be the manager that takes Argentina to a first World Cup win since 1978? Or perhaps you are looking to stamp Chilean authority on the world stage? The 2015 Copa América winners are looking for success in the World Cup – Chile finished third place in the 1962 edition, and have yet to go beyond the Round of 16, last reaching this stage in Brazil during 2014
You have 10 years to win international silverware; 6 years with Argentina, 4 years with Chile. Timing and decision making is going to be crucial with this one.
You will face a different sort of challenge following the footsteps of Marcelo Bielsa. But Football Manager enthusiasts love a challenge. They love a journeyman. And Bielsa is certainly lucky enough to have graced so many different cultures during his management career. This could well be the save that brings back the FM bug you have been craving. Alternatively, this could be a save that forces you right out of the comfort zone, as you would be hopping between continents and countries you may not normally manage in.
Are you crazy enough to give this one a go?