Marcelo Bielsa switched careers, from playing football to managing a team, in the 1980s. He began as a coach for the youth division of Newell's Old Boys School and slowly progressed to become the manager of the team.
In 1990, he was made the manager of Newell’s team during their many tours. Under him, the team won the 1990 Torneo Apertura and Torneo Integración. He was also the man behind the team that reached the finals of the Copa Libertadores in 1992, but eventually lost. However, they triumphed at the Torneo Clausura in the same month to lift the cup.
Over the next few years, he rapidly switched teams. In Mexico, he managed Club Atlas from 1992 to 1994. Later, he headed Club America until 1996. He returned to Argentina in 1998 to manage Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield, helping them win the 1998 Clausura.
In 1998, he was appointed the manager of the Argentinian national team, replacing Daniel Passarella. When Argentina lost against Colombia at Copa America in 1999, Bielsa’s furious reactions against the referee brought him at the center of attention.
Under Bielsa, Argentina managed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup but were beaten during the knockout stage. However, the team managed to reach the finals of the 2004 Copa America and gloriously took home the gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Despite helping Argentina win its first Olympic gold medal in over 50 years, Bielsa decided to resign from his post on a high note. He was succeeded by Jose Pekerman.
In 2007, Bielsa was announced as the manager of the Chile national team. Under him, the side flourished and defeated many of its old opponents for the first time. He helped the team qualify for the World Cup, which made him a popular figure in Chile.
Impressed by Bielsa’s efforts in improving the Chilean squad’s strategy and performance, fans campaigned for him to extend his guidance to the team during the next World Cup. However, owing to political reasons, Bielsa resigned from his position in 2011.
He moved to managing Athletic Bilbao, a Spanish football club in the Basque country, in July 2011. Under him, the team managed to top the UEFA Europa League and reached the finals of the Copa del Rey in 2012, eventually losing the trophy.
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Athletic’s 2013-14 season did not prove to be very successful. Consequently, Bielsa’s contract with the club was not renewed and he left his position in June 2013.
In May 2014, it was announced that Marseille, a French football club, was bringing in Bielsa as its coach with a two-year-contract. They managed a fourth spot in Ligue 1 in 2014, but fared poorly in the next season. Bielsa resigned over his differences with the management in August 2015.
He joined Lazio, an Italian club, in July 2016. However, within two days of joining, he decided to quit. The club filed a €50 million lawsuit against him for failing to honor the contract.
In 2017, he joined the Ligue 1 club Lille as the new manager with a two-year-contract. He brought in rapid changes, which displeased many. After 13 matches, he was suspended as coach, and his termination was announced later.
In June 2018, he was announced as the head coach of the English club, Leeds United, where he replaced Paul Heckingbottom. His two-year-contract made him one of the highest paid managers in Leeds’ history.
He started working with Leeds in the beginning of the EFL Championship, helping them win the first three matches. This was a historical moment for Leeds as such a feat had not been achieved since 1974. Bielsa continued doing his magic, and Leeds was unbeaten in the first six rounds.
Despite many Leeds players being injured during the EFL championship, the club continued to shine in top form and remained on top of the table. Bielsa was credited for working on players’ techniques and helping them give their best.
Despite having only a moderately successful win record, Bielsa is considered among the most respected and influential football mangers today. His success with Argentina is cited as the best change he brought about in a team. Pep Guardiola called him the ‘best manager in the world’.
Off the field, Bielsa is known for his obsessive attention to detail. His meticulousness about his play formations and methods are results of his observation of each individual player. He has been called a ‘genius’ and ‘coaching master’ by many.