London (AFP) – Maverick former Argentina and Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa is close to agreeing to becoming the surprise new manager of sleeping English football giants Leeds United according to media reports.
The 62-year-old would according to The Yorkshire Evening Post be the highest paid manager in the club’s history and will fill the vacuum left by Paul Heckingbotham, sacked earlier this month after just 16 games in charge of the second tier outfit.
Their claim follows a report in The Daily Telegraph that the board had thought of approaching Steve Bruce at cash-strapped Aston Villa as the talks dragged on but persisted with Bielsa and are due to get their man.
According to the Post, Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani sent emissaries to meet with Bielsa last month.
Bielsa, though, had been seeking assurances over certain issues and South American sources told the newspaper that having reflected over the weekend and holding further talks a positive outcoe was expected.
Bielsa’s unpredictability and mood swings has earned him the nickname ‘Loko Bielsa’ (Mad Bielsa) and Leeds would be a good fit with both requiring a resurgence in their fortunes.
The three-time English champions who reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2001 have not featured in the Premier League since being relegated in 2004 and at one stage were even in the tier three League One.
They have persistently failed even to reach the Championship play-offs and under Italian owner Massimo Cellino became better known for the swing door policy of managerial ins and outs and his problems with the courts than for their football.
Radrizzani promised more stability when he took on the club from his fellow Italian last year but lost highly-rated manager Garry Monk within days and last season their fortunes fared little better in challenging for promotion.
Radrizzani and the weary Leeds fans will hope the Bielsa they get is the one of the earlier years who guided Argentina to the Olympic title in 2004 and then to the Copa America final that year.
Having performed well as coach of Athletic Bilbao — they reached the Europa League and Spanish Cup final in 2012 — his recent club history has been chequered.
He walked out of the job at Serie A side Lazio after just two days in 2016 and most recently lasted barely longer at Ligue 1 outfit Lille.
Appointed in May 2017 he was suspended from his job in November after only three victories in 13 games in charge and having got rid of several of the established players and outlaid €60 million ($70million) he was then fired in December.