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Leeds’ Bielsa admits he spied ‘all the rivals’

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Managerial darling Marcelo Bielsa spoke out Wednesday as fallout continues from a Leeds United scout caught spying on Derby County last week.

Bielsa says he’s spied on every team the club has played in the Championship this season.

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How rare is this? And how big of a role has it played in Leeds’ 4-point lead in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League? From the BBC:

“I observed all the rivals we played against and watched the training sessions of all opponents,” he said. “All the information I need to clarify, I gather it without watching the training session of the opponent, so why did I send someone to watch them? Just because I thought I wasn’t violating the norm. I gathered information that I can obtain in another way.

“We feel guilty if we don’t work enough, it [watching the opponents train] allows us to have less anxiety and in my case I am stupid enough to allow this kind of behavior.”

The 63-year-old Argentine has spent time at Lille, Lazio, Marseille, Athletic Bilbao, and Espanyol in addition to running the national teams of Argentina and Chile.

It does raise the question of how much spying is done in soccer. We know that the NFL’s New England Patriots cheated during a game against the New York Jets and that MLB teams try to steal signals, but sneaking around a training session… is that okay? Should it be?

Leeds coach Bielsa accepts responsibility in spy row

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DERBY, England (AP) Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa is known for his meticulous planning and attention to detail when it comes to preparing his teams for matches.

He took it too far this week.

Bielsa, as coach of English second-tier team Leeds, has accepted responsibility for having a club employee spy on opponent Derby County’s training session ahead of their league match on Friday.

“Without trying to find a justification, I have been using this kind of practice since the qualifications for the World Cup with Argentina,” said Bielsa, who coached his country from 1998-2004. “This is not illegal. We have been doing it publicly; we talk about it in the press. For some people it is the wrong thing, for others it’s not.”

Police were called to Derby’s training center on Thursday following reports of a man “acting suspiciously outside the premises.” The man was seen at the perimeter fence, inside which Derby’s players were training. British newspaper The Daily Mail reported he had in his possession a pair of binoculars and a change of clothes.

Derby manager Frank Lampard brought an early end to the training session.

“Yesterday I talked to Frank Lampard and he told me I didn’t respect fair play,” Bielsa said. “I have a different point of view on it but the important thing is what Frank and Derby think. I am responsible for it because I didn’t ask for Leeds United permission to do it.

“It doesn’t matter if this is legal, illegal, right or wrong,” Bielsa added. “For me, it’s enough that Frank Lampard and Derby County felt it was not the right thing to do. I didn’t behave well.”

Lampard, the former England and Chelsea midfielder, suggested the same thing happened before the teams’ first meeting of the season.

“We had somebody the day before our first game against them, which we lost 4-1,” Lampard said. “Now Leeds can beat you 4-1, they’re a fantastic team, but we had somebody in the bushes that day. Twice this season now.”

Bielsa’s Leeds was top of the League Championship going into Friday’s match against sixth-place Derby.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Derby County confirm training ground spy a Leeds employee

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UPDATE (2:25 pm ET): Marcelo Bielsa publicly admitted to sending an employee to spy on Derby County training. He took full responsibility for his actions, saying nobody instructed him to do so.

Even more shockingly, Bielsa admitted to making use of training ground spies as far back as 17 years ago. “Without trying to find any form of justification, I have been using this practice since the [2002] World Cup qualifications with Argentina,” Bielsa told Sky Sports.

When asked if he is aware of any rules preventing this action, he said, “It doesn’t matter if it’s legal or illegal or right or wrong. For me it’s enough that Frank Lampard and Derby felt it was not the right thing to do.” Reports state Bielsa called Derby manager Frank Lampard to admit to the action before going public.

Bielsa coached Argentina from 1998-2004, and led the Chilean national team from 2007-2011. Since, he has taken charge of club teams Marseille, Lazio, Lille, and now Leeds, hired by the English club in June.

There are no particular rules against spying on opposing clubs, but the English FA could punish Bielsa for bringing the game into disrepute if it determines the offense is grounds for such a charge.

Lampard also told media Friday afternoon that the club noticed someone acting suspiciously around the training ground before they lost 4-1 to Leeds in August. “On a sportsman’s level, it’s bad in my opinion,” Lampard said. “If we’re going to start talking about ‘culturally I did it somewhere else so it’s fine,’ then that doesn’t work for me because I don’t believe it is fine on that level. It’s disrupted our buildup to this game.”


Derby County has released a statement confirming that a man caught reportedly spying on their training session was an employee of Championship rivals Leeds United, whom the Rams are set to play later today.

According to reports on Thursday evening and Friday morning, police were called when it was discovered a man was “acting suspiciously outside the premises” at the club training ground. Reports say the man was watching Frank Lampard’s training session with binoculars, and was also in possession of pliers and a change of clothes.

The Derby County club statement went one step further, confirming that the employee was a member of the Leeds United staff. Leeds sits atop the Championship table, and the two have a vitally important league match with Derby just eight points back in a hotly contested Championship promotion race.

While they did not confirm the identity of the man, Derbyshire police did address the incident on social media Thursday, saying, “Officers have just attended the Training Ground for @dcfcofficial After a suspicious male was seen at the perimeter fence. Excellent searching conducted & male was located. All checks above board!
Keeping the team safe to bring home a win against on 11th!”

Police say they did not make an arrest, and instead the man was simply “sent on his way.” In the club statement, Derby County confirmed they are “in discussion with Leeds United club officials in relation to this incident.”

Derby has done well under new manager Lampard this year, but they have just one win in their last five league matches and desperately need a high-profile result to avoid further trouble as they sit at the bottom of the playoff positions. Meanwhile, Marcelo Bielsa has Leeds atop the standings, just two points ahead of Norwich City.

Report: Marcelo Bielsa lined up by Atlanta United

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Now this is something that would not only break the hearts of Leeds United fans but it would surely delight supporters of reigning MLS champs Atlanta United.

A report from Paul Newberry of the Associated Press claims that Atlanta United want one of Marcelo Bielsa or Guillermo Barros Schelotto to take over from outgoing head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino.

The Argentine coach took charge of ATL’s first two years as an MLS franchise but Martino announced he is leaving this month, and he is expected to be named the new head coach of the Mexican national team.

Bielsa is known to be a close friend of Martino, but does this link make sense?

Right now the eccentric Argentina coach has a sleeping giant, Leeds, in second place in England’s second tier and many believe the Elland Road club are the favorites for promotion to the Premier League this season.

However, a report from the Daily Telegraph states that Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani could be having money issues as his sports streaming company, Eleven Sports, is on the brink of shutting down.

“Radrizzani’s sports streaming service is at risk of shutting down after only four months amid growing doubts over the financial viability of the company. It is understood that the 44-year-old Italian businessman has been unsuccessfully attempting to renegotiate deals with established pay-TV operators but Eleven Sports is now considering pulling the plug on its UK company. Telegraph Sport understands there could now be added pressure on Leeds to achieve promotion this season due to fears over cash-flow issues.”

Would this situation force Bielsa to leave Leeds before the end of the season? Probably not. It seems likely that the pressure will be cranked up on him to achieve promotion though as Radrizzani, Leeds’ majority owner since May, will need to deliver the huge riches promotion to the Premier League brings to continue to bankroll the club.

Bielsa does have a reputation for jumping ship pretty quickly when he does decide he’s had enough at a particular club or if things that were promised to him do not come to fruition. That said, this would still be a huge shock.

Then again, Atlanta shocked many with hiring Martino in the first place and since then the signings of Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Barco and now Gonzalo ‘Pity’ Martinz.

Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday draw on pair of beautiful goals

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Who says the Championship is all a grind?

Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds drew 1-1 at Hillsborough Stadium on Friday as a pair of spectacular goals shared the spoils. First, it was Adam Reach who put the home side in front on the stroke of halftime with an incredible volley from almost 35 yards out, letting the ball bounce once before swiping at it with his left foot, catching the absolute top-left corner and cannoning into the back of the net.

It was the second Championship goal of the season for the 25-year-old, his third overall.

With Sheffield Wednesday up past halftime, Leeds pressed for an equalizer and struck just nine minutes after the break. Tyler Roberts laid the ball off to Mateusz Klich, and the 28-year-old Polish midfielder unleashed a curler after being given plenty of space. Klich’s effort bent around Wednesday goalkeeper Cameron Dawson and into the top-right corner, evening the scoreline at 1-1.

It’s the fourth goal of the season for the former Wolfsburg man, a vitally important goal as Leeds pushes for a spot at the top of the Championship standings.

The match is an important one, as Leeds came into the match atop the Championship table, level on points with Middlesborough and one above West Brom. Sheffield Wednesday sat in 10th upon kickoff, just four points back of the leaders. The result will be disappointing for both sides, allowing others around them an opportunity to pull ahead.