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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

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.

Marcelo Bielsa gives painfully awkward pre, post match interviews

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Argentinian manager Marcelo Bielsa is known for his eccentricity. It’s maybe because of that that his pre-match and post-match interviews bracketing his first game in charge of Leeds United on Sunday are both completely unsurprising and shocking at the same time.

The 63-year-old clearly has a base-level understanding of English, but chose to give his pre-match and post-match interviews with a translator, but with a twist. Instead of giving his answers to the translator who then verbalizes the responses in English, Bielsa wanted to be the one to deliver the English responses himself. He just needed help doing so.

This led to an incredibly awkward exchange. First, the interviewer asks the question in English. Then, the translator speaks (more like whispers) the question in Bielsa’s ear, who thinks of his response, and whispers it back to the translator. The translator then whispers back the English response for Bielsa to use, and the Argentinian finally gives his broken English response to the microphone.

Full credit to Bielsa for wanting to give his own answers in English, but the stunt made for painfully awkward television. Since Bielsa isn’t a trained translator able to remember how to formulate long responses in a foreign language, the responses ended up being absurdly short, giving the interview a standofish feel even if he didn’t mean it that way. By the end, when Bielsa went through all that trouble to say “I was only happy at the end,” you could hear everyone laughing, realizing how ridiculous the entire situation had become.

This is not to drag a manager who clearly had good intentions, but instead to poke fun at a situation that meant well but was executed very poorly. Hopefully Bielsa can give fans a little more insight as the season goes on and he streamlines his interview process.

To ease the tension, Leeds won its first match under Bielsa 3-1 over Stoke City in front of the home fans at Elland Road to open their Championship campaign.

Bielsa to coach second-tier Leeds United

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LEEDS, England (AP) Volatile Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa has landed his first managerial job in England after taking charge of second-tier club Leeds.

The 62-year-old Bielsa is a highly respected tactician after impressive coaching spells with Argentina and Chile, and won top-flight league titles in his native country with Newell’s Old Boys and�Velez Sarsfield.

But he also courts controversy. In the last three years, he quit Marseille after the first game of the 2015-16 Ligue 1 season, resigned from Italian club Lazio two days after joining, then didn’t even last half a season at Lille.

Leeds announced the appointment on Friday, with Bielsa saying, “It has always been my ambition to work in England.”

Bielsa has signed a two-year deal, yet coaches have struggled to last even a season at Leeds in a chaotic last few years at the northern club as it looks to return to the Premier League for the first time since 2004.