Marcelo Bielsa has again agreed a new one-year deal at Leeds United on the eve of the season as the Whites incredible journey under the maverick Argentine will continue for at least one more campaign.
The news of course was met with jubilation by the West Yorkshire club’s loyal fans, but there is a sense among many that this could be his final season at Elland Road.
This is already the longest period of time Bielsa has spent at one club and despite a mutual feeling of love between manager, players and fans, the 66-year-old will eventually depart whether that is at the end of this season or the next one.
As hard as it is to talk about a post-Bielsa Leeds United, the club need to be ready for his exit to ensure a smooth transition into the future because if they don’t get it right, all of the Argentine’s incredible work at the club could be undone.
There is no question Bielsa’s successor will walk into a club set for the future, with a redeveloped training ground, brand new video technology and eventually a stadium worthy of one of the Premier League’s big boys. They’ll also arrive to arguably the fittest team in world football, who have a superb style of play and an exciting crop of young players – all the work of Bielsa, his staff and the club’s hierarchy.
With all that in mind the job at Elland Road will certainly be an attractive one, presuming the club are able to again consolidate in the Premier League this season. So the big question is, who takes the Leeds United hot seat after Bielsa. Here are our top five contenders to be the Whites next manager.
Who better to replace Bielsa than someone who aspires to be like him? Gallardo has achieved massive success in his home country Argentina, winning 12 honours with River Plate since taking over in 2014. He boasts an even better start to his managerial career than Bielsa managed in their native country with Newell’s Old Boys, and at just 45 he could be a long-term fix at Elland Road. Gallardo idolises Bielsa and possesses similar attributes in terms of an incredible work-ethic and commitment to his job, while also refusing to budge from an all-out attacking style of football. He would understand and respect what his fellow countryman has built in West Yorkshire and could be the perfect man to take Leeds forward into the future.
Reports at the end of last year suggested Lopetegui was being lined up by the club to replace Bielsa and he wouldn’t be a bad appointment based off his managerial career so far. Putting aside the farcical end to his spell as Spain manager and the torrid time he endured at Real Madrid, the former Barcelona player has reignited his managerial career since taking charge at Sevilla in 2019. He has guided the club to Champions League qualification in both seasons as well as winning the 2020 Europa League Final – defeating Man Utd in the semi-final and Inter Milan in the final. It’s believed Lopetegui is a favourite of Andrea Radrizanni and the Leeds owner may go all out to lure the 54-year-old Spaniard away from the La Liga side.
Since taking over at Rangers the former Liverpool captain has redefined Scottish football, shifting the power back to the blue half of Glasgow. He plays attacking and dynamic football which produces results, but also ensures stability at the back. Rangers ‘invincible’ 2020/21 campaign will make Gerrard a legend at the club forever but the challenge now comes in building on that success. The Gers poor start to this season will test Gerrard’s ability with the 40-match unbeaten league run now over and the Champions League qualifying exit at the hands of Molde FK arguably the most disappointing defeat of his managerial career. The general consensus is though that Gerrard needs another step up and Leeds could be the perfect club for him, whether Leeds would want Gerrard though is another matter.
The former Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk and Paços Ferreira manager has been in the game for a long time and is still only 48. Having made over 250 appearances as a player, he’s been a manager since 2005 and his tactical style has evolved and made him known all around the world. These days he provides his teams with great tactical versatility that allows his side to play both possession-based and counter-attacking football which would build on the foundations laid by Bielsa at Elland Road. Moreover, it could make the team more adaptable having been exhausted by Bielsa’s high-intensity style, enabling them to maintain the upwards trajectory established by the Argentine in recent years, without running out of steam in the seasons to come – a problem Jurgen Klopp sides often have after five years of his management.
Howe is one of very few Premier League managers who arrived in the top flight with a newly promoted side, played good football and was able to stay up and consolidate for a number of years. Things didn’t end well during his time at Bournemouth, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact he brought the club from League 1 to the Premier League and kept them there. Howe is very good bringing through young players, something Leeds are building for, but perhaps a big concern would be his difficulty at bringing the best out of new signings, something the Whites will have to consistently do over the coming years. Still only 43, it is perhaps surprising Howe has struggled to find a new job since his exit from the Cherries but there may well be a reason for that.
Another man with Premier League experience, Potter has defied the odds since taking over at Brighton bringing positive football to the Amex whilst keeping them firmly in the league. He’s achieved a lot at Brighton on a modest budget and at a club the size of Leeds, he could do even more. It does appear that Potter is at Brighton for the long haul though as he continues to build a long-term project, and there is no question that the Seagulls have the potential to finish much higher up the league in the coming years. We also can’t ignore the fact that Brighton did the double over Leeds last season, outplaying them on both occasions with some slick football, something that wouldn’t have escaped the attention of the hierarchy at Elland Road. There is no question Leeds would be a step up for Potter, but at this moment it seems unlikely due to his healthy relationship with the Brighton board.