Marcelo Bielsa’s influence on Guardiola, Zidane, and Pochentino cannot be overemphasized. But this is a fact that many football fans do not know.
Zidane and Pep Guardiola are both great coaches. Although, Pep and Pochettino are part of the average footballers who turned out successful coaches.
Zidane, on the other hand, is one of the best midfielders of all time and one of the only 3 Champions League Winning managers who got hired mid-season.
Furthermore, Pochettino is also successful in his own right. He competed with a low budget Tottenham team (comparatively) in the premier league.
So, having briefly mentioned the supposed “understudies” in Pochettino, Guardiola, and Zidane, it is time to consider the man who influenced them – Bielsa.
Who Is Marcelo Bielsa?
What readily comes to mind when you hear that a man is nicknamed a “mad man“?
Well, Marcelo Bielsa was nicknamed a “madman” after his team Newell’s old boys were thrashed 6-0 by San Lorenzo in the Copa Libertadores.
That night, a gang of 20 incensed ultras turned up at Bielsa’s home, demanding he come out to face them. When he emerged at the door, he did so clutching a grenade. Then he said:
“If you don’t leave, I will pull the pin,” he said. It was this incident that popularised the nickname for Bielsa: “El Loco” (Madman).
Bielsa At Athletic Bilbao
Do you remember a certain Athletico Bilbao team that dumped a Manchester United team out of the Europa league in 2012?
They defeated Manchester United 3-2 and 2-1 win at Old Trafford and Sam Mames stadium respectively. That Bilbao team played an eye-catching style of football in that tie.
Marcelo Bielsa was the man behind that Bilbao team.
The Argentine Coach steered them to both the domestic and European Cup Final but they lost to Barcelona and Athletico Madrid respectively.
Overall, during his time at Bilbao, Bielsa was well respected even by Guardiola and many others.
Bielsa At Newell’s Old Boys, Argentina, and Chile National Teams
Bielsa played for Newell’s old boys and started his coaching career with the same club where he led them to multiple league titles and the Copa Libertadores final.
After his stint with Newell’s old boys, he managed some clubs before managing two (2) national teams( Argentina and Chile).
The Argentine Coach led his country to the final of the Copa America in 2004 where he lost to Brazil before winning the Olympics the same year.
Thus, his Argentine team became the first Latin American team to win the Olympic title in football in 76years (1928-2004).
With Chile, he got more respect. When he threatened to resign from his position as manager, a movement titled “Bielsa is NOT leaving” was initiated. He eventually left the post.
More about Bielsa, he led Leeds United to the 2019 Championship play -off to the Premier league in his first year.
Bielsa’s team eventually gained promotion to the Premier league in 2020 after they won the English Championship. Thereafter, he allegedly had a street named after him for that achievement.
As a man, Bielsa upholds high morals. He allegedly turned himself into the police in Spain while he was coach of Athletico Bilbao after a minor scuffle with a construction worker.
Bielsa reportedly told Pep Guadiola why he doesn’t grant private interview to journalists. He stated that he would rather give all journalists the chance to interview him than give preferential treatment to one.
Interestingly, Bielsa ordered his Leeds United team to allow Aston Villa to equalize a goal his team scored while an Aston Villa player was down injured. An action that earned Leeds United the Fifa fair play award in 2019.
Guardiola and Zidane’s Visit To Bielsa
Zidane was still the coach of the Real Madrid youth team when he reportedly visited Bielsa at Marseille. Bielsa had good words to say about Zidane’s visit, he said:
“He’s a living monument to football, I see him more as a statue than a living being.
“For Mr. Zidane to listen to me was unforgettable.
“He was more and more focused, although it was hard at first.
“Zidane exerts this inhibiting power on an ordinary man. It’s indescribable.”
Also, Pep Guardiola embarked on a journey to visit Bielsa in Argentina before he started his own coaching career. Reports had it that both men had an 11-hour discussion.
It is no coincidence that within a short period of time as a coach, Pep Guardiola and Zidane achieved unbelievable success. They won multiple League titles and Champions Leagues.
The Marcelo Bielsa’s influence on Guardiola & Zidane is clear.
Pochettino’s Opinion of Bielsa
Gabriel Batistuta, Mauricio Pochettino, Benjamin Mendy, Aymeric Laporte, and Diego Simeone all cited Bielsa as a primary influence on their understanding of the game.
Pochentino, who like Marcelo Gallardo and Diego Simeone played under Bielsa said:
“For me, he’s a person I will always admire, He’s a genius. A person with the charisma and a personality very different from us normal coaches, and that’s what makes him special.”
When Bielsa was linked to a move in England, Pochentino stated:
“it’s a pleasure for me if he comes to the Premier League because he is one of the best managers in the world”.
Pep Guadiola’s Opinion of Bielsa
Pep didn’t mince words when he called Bielsa the best after Leeds United secured Premier league promotion in 2020.
He reacted through a post on his official twitter handle which is transalates as:
“The best reaches the premier league.”
At other times, Pep is quoted to have said:
“My admiration for Marcelo Bielsa is huge because he makes the players much, much better.
“Still, I didn’t meet one guy, a former player from Marcelo Bielsa who speaks no good about him.”
“They are grateful for his influence on their careers in football.
“He helped me a lot with his advice. Whenever I speak with him, I always feel like he wants to help me.
“it is important to say this about Marcelo because it doesn’t matter how many titles he had in his career. We are judged by that but that is much less influential than how he has influenced football and his football players. That is why for me, he is the best coach in the world.”
Similarities Between Guardiola, Zidane, and Pochettino’s Tactics
Marcelo Bielsa’s Influence on Guardiola, Zidane, and Pochettino is evident in their style.
Guardiola, Zinedine Zidane, and Pochettino’s principles of energetic, high press style of football are footprints of Bielsa’s influence on their respective careers.
The trio’s teams play a style of football similar to Bielsa’s.
Marcelo Bielsa influence on Guardiola
Guadiola’s Barcelona team executed the high pressing style of football effectively. So much so that they won 14 trophies in 4 seasons.
That Barcelona team at some point looked unplayable.
Sir Alex Ferguson mentioned that Pep’s Barcelona is the best he faced in his more than 20 years career as a coach.
It is safe to say that Marcelo Bielsa’s influence on Guardiola is quite evident.
Marcelo Bielsa influence on Zidane
Zidane’s Real Madrid team most times set up in a way that allows the full-backs to attack and sometimes join in the midfield.
This tactic is similar to the one often deployed by Bielsa and Pep Guardiola; 2 coaches he visited before the start of his career.
On this note, we can infer that Marcelo Bielsa’s influence on Zidane is a positive one.
Marcelo Bielsa influence on Pochettino
Pochettino who is the least successful of the trio (in terms of trophies won) had his Tottenham team play a man-to-man, direct attack system.
Players are expected to go all-in and attack with purpose when with the ball. Without the ball, they dump ample pressure on the opponents.
Guardiola, Zidane, and Pochettino may not have implemented all of Bielsa’s tactics.
However, Bielsa’s influence on Guardiola, Zidane, and Pochentino cannot be overstated.
Which of the Guardiola, Zidane and Pochettino did Marcelo Bielsa have the most influence?