London (AFP) – Marcelo Bielsa declined to make any promises about taking Leeds United back to the big time during his first press conference as manager of the fallen English giants on Monday.
It is 14 years since Leeds, three-times the champions of England and one of the country’s leading clubs in the late 1960s and early 1970s, were last in the Premier League.
But they are now looking to veteran manager Bielsa will get them back to the top flight in what is the 62-year-old former Argentina and Chile boss’s first job in English football.
As for the prospect of taking them there in his first term, however, Bielsa — who has signed a two-year contract with the option of a further season — was understandably guarded.
– ‘Dream’ –
“It’s imprudent to promise something which you know can never be guaranteed,” he told reporters via a translator.
“At the same time, not to dream about that would be impossible. What drives you is having that hope, desire and belief that you can achieve what everyone wants.
“Setting objectives, parameters in advance — I don’t think it’s the ideal message of support.
“The users of these messages are the fans.”
The Argentinian added: “The history of this club, everyone knows how to measure success or failure at the end of the season.
“If you try to predict the future you’re almost becoming a demi-god rather than a football coach.”
Bielsa arrived at Elland Road after a long, globe-trotting career that also included managing clubs such as Argentina’s Newell’s Old Boys, Spain’s Espanyol and Athletic Bilbao, as well as French teams Marseille and Lille.
Yet at a time when he might have been forgiven for not wanting the upheaval of coming to another country and joining a club such as Leeds, who under former Italian owner Massimo Cellino became better known for a revolving door policy of managerial changes and legal issues than football.
Nevertheless Bielsa said he did not need to be convinced by anyone else to join Leeds, who are now owned by another Italian in businessman Andrea Radrizzani.
“It was a case of me convincing myself,” Bielsa insisted.
“Nobody had to convince me. I was convinced by the strength of Leeds United as a club and an institution.
“I looked at things from a sporting, football point of view and those things together helped me make my choice.”
Bielsa spent seven years in charge of Argentina, guiding them to Olympic gold in 2004 and to the runners-up spot in the Copa America that same year.
He also took Chile to the 2010 World Cup, while Bilbao reached both the Europa League final and Copa del Rey final under Bielsa back in 2012.
Leeds finished a disappointing 13th in the second-tier Championship last season, outside the play-off spots never mind the automatic promotion places, after a promising start.
Bielsa though ruled out making wholesale changes before the start of the new campaign.
“For the moment we’re not intending to bring too many new faces in,” he added. “From my point of view the club have got plenty of players I feel should remain here.
“The club have got 15 players more than they need and we still have four or five positions on the field where we need to strengthen.”