Marcelo Bielsa has left Leeds United after three-and-a-half years in charge.
The Argentine departs after a poor run of form, with just one point gained from the last 18 on offer, and with the side two points above the Premier League relegation zone and in serious danger of going down.
Former RB Leipzig manager Jesse Marsch is in contention to replace Bielsa – the highest-paid manager in the club’s history – at Elland Road, with the club aiming to make an announcement on his successor on Monday.
Manager Marcelo Bielsa (pictured) has left Leeds United after three-and-a-half years in charge
Leeds have conceded 20 goals in their last four games and taken one point from the last 18
A 4-0 home defeat against Tottenham proved to be the last straw for the 66-year-old Argentine
Bielsa was a fan favourite after leading Leeds back to the Premier League after 16 years away
But supporters (above) became frustrated in recent weeks given the side’s awful run of form
A club statement on Sunday confirmed Leeds have parted company with Bielsa after ‘this season has proved to be difficult’, with just five wins this campaign.
Chairman Andrea Radrizzani said: ‘This has been the toughest decision I have had to make during my tenure, taking into account all the success Marcelo has had at the club. With Marcelo as our head coach, we had three incredible campaigns and the good times returned to Elland Road.
‘He changed the culture of the club and brought a winning mentality to us all. The moments created, particularly in the 2019/20 season and winning promotion to the Premier League, will of course live long in all our memories, myself and the fans included.
‘However, I have to act in the best interest of the club and I believe a change is required now in order to secure our Premier League status. Recent results and performances have not met our expectations.
‘We find ourselves in a precarious league position and I feel now is the right time to bring in a new head coach, in order to have an impact in the decisive stage of the season. Naturally, myself, along with everyone else at the club would like to thank Marcelo for his efforts and achievements and we wish him the very best for the future.’
Director of football Victor Orta added: ‘Since arriving at Leeds United Marcelo had a huge impact on the club, on a scale I have not seen before.
‘He has created a legacy, overseeing major infrastructure improvements at Thorp Arch, uniting the supporters and the players, and giving a clear pathway for young players to transition into the first team.
‘It is disappointing his reign has had to end in this manner, given the special times we have enjoyed in recent years, which have been some of the best in my career, but we cannot hide from recent results. I would like to thank Marcelo for his commitment and dedication, and I wish him every success going forwards.’
Striker Patrick Bamford tweeted: ‘Thank you. The man who changed everything for everyone’.
The club lie in 15th, just two points above the relegation zone and are in danger of going down
Leeds are just the second Premier League side to concede three or more in five straight games
The 66-year-old was appointed in June 2018 after Paul Heckingbottom’s sacking, and has led the club for more than three full seasons, ending a run of eight managers in the previous three-and-a-half years.
His 140-match tenure marks him as the second-longest serving manager, behind Simon Grayson (169), since David O’Leary’s stint at the turn of the millennium.
Moreover, his record of 74 wins, 24 draws and 42 losses leaves him with a win percentage of 52.86 – the second-highest in history among Leeds managers with more than five games – narrowly behind legendary figure Don Revie (53.24).
Despite the physical rigours of the Championship, his side played free-flowing, attacking, entertaining football, winning plaudits from neutrals for their wholehearted and swashbuckling style of play, often relying on young players and integrating several academy youngsters into the first-team.
Bielsa was criticised after ‘Spygate’, where he admitted sending a man to watch rival Derby’s training sessions – he personally paid the £200,000 fine – but won the 2019 FIFA Fair Play Award after letting Aston Villa walk the ball in when his side had scored a controversial goal, thus resulting in Leeds missing out on automatic promotion.
Upon promotion back to the top-flight, a street in Leeds city centre was renamed ‘Marcelo Bielsa Way’, and he was named LMA Championship Manager of the Year and came third in the Best FIFA Football Coach award for his achievements.
In his first season in the Premier League, his side finished ninth, gaining more points and scoring more goals than any other promoted side for 20 years.
Bielsa has been hindered by the absence of several key players, like Patrick Bamford (right)
The 66-year-old is well known for his forthright press conferences aided by his translator (left)
However, this season Leeds have struggled, with injuries to key players like captain Liam Cooper plus England internationals Kalvin Phillips and Bamford – arguably their best defender, midfielder and forward respectively – and Covid-19 absences hitting the club hard.
The Whites have not won since a 3-2 victory against West Ham on January 16, and have conceded 20 goals in the last five matches, four per game, with the side looking jaded and seemingly incapable of stopping the opposition from scoring.
The enigmatic, eccentric boss, well known for his pithy and forthright press conferences in Spanish, aided by translator Andres Clavijo, pioneered the unusual 3-3-3-1 formation and was described by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola as the best in the world.
But a 4-0 home defeat by Antonio Conte’s Tottenham, with Leeds put to the sword by Harry Kane and Son Heung-min on Saturday, eventually proved the final straw.
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