Marcelo Bielsa, currently the coach of the newly-promoted Premier League side Leeds United, is considered to be one of the most iconic and influential managers of all time. By a managerial profile, he doesn’t have many accolades. But Bielsa’s understanding of the game and influence on the Argentine football is unmatched. His philosophy and style of football inspired generations.
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Pep Guardiola, former Barcelona and currently Manchester City Coach and Mauricio Pochettino, former Tottenham Hotspur Coach; are two of those people who hail Marcelo Bielsa as their idols. They are deeply inspired by the Marcelo Bielsa ideology of football on and off the pitch. However, Pochettino has a very deep connection with Bielsa. He was the pupil of Bielsa at the Argentina National Football Team and also at club level with Newell’s Old Boys at Argentina and with Espanyol at Spain. Bielsa signed Mauricio Pochettino at the age of 14 for Newell’s Old Boys when Bielsa was a reserve team coach. When Bielsa took over as a head coach, Pochettino was a regular for Newell’s Old Boys. Pochettino won 1990-92 Argentine Primera Division for two seasons, the Top Division of Argentine Football and Clausura title in 1992.
In 1998, Bielsa was given the job of manager at Spanish La Liga side Espanyol, but he soon left after being offered the management of the Argentina national team. Pochettino was re-joined with him and started 5 games for Espanyol under Bielsa. Even after Bielsa Pochettino was an automatic starter at Espanyol.
Under Bielsa, Pochettino won all 20 matches between 1992-2002. He was a participant at the 1999 Copa América and the 2002 FIFA World Cup under Bielsa.
Bielsa and Pochettino have a very good relationship and Pochettino remembers his time with Bielsa fondly. Recently in an interview with SKY SPORTS Mauricio talked about it.
Mauricio said that playing under Bielsa is very tough. The Leeds United player will know how tough he is and how demanding Bielsa is. Even after being so demanding as a coach Mauricio described Bielsa as a ‘very special man’. Bielsa is different because he did not only created ways to play football but also a training method to play that kind of football. Bielsa always chooses a staff of people who could adapt to his style.
Pochettino remembered his time as he got to know the Argentine mastermind at the age of 13 or 14. How he had to translate the unique ideas of Bielsa who came to watch him play and support. On his first training day, Pochettino was playing an 11 v 11 match and he was excited to play. Bielsa came to Poch and said, “you will play as a striker.” But Pochettino was shocked because he never played at the striker position. He said that he played as a Central Back in his home town. But Bielsa said that the scout who spotted him exclaimed that Poch plays like a striker. Pochettino clarified that he had to play like that because he was the best player in their home town team. Rightly so because if you are the best player in a small-town team, you had to play everywhere on the pitch. Bielsa understood and decided to play Mauricio at the center back position. Five minutes into the game and Bielsa calls Poch to the sidelines. Sitting on the football near the sidelines, Bielsa called Pochettino near him and tells him, “Mauricio I want to sign you for Newell’s Old Boys and now you go take a shower.” Pochettino was shocked as it was just 5 minutes of the game. Then Bielsa asked him to do as he says, to take a bath and go to his dad back in his hometown and tell him his son signing for Newell’s Old Boys. Years after that incident Pochettino realized how sharp Bielsa was as a person. How brilliantly his mind worked to spot the talent of a 14-year-old boy just after watching him play for 5 minutes. Mauricio will remember Bielsa as a person with unbelievable perception and intuition like no one he will ever know.