Marcelo Bielsa

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Marcelo Bielsa
Marcelo Bielsa 2009-03-03.jpg
Bielsa at a press conference in 2009
Personal information
Full name Marcelo Alberto Bielsa Caldera
Date of birth (1955-07-21) 21 July 1955 (age 63)
Place of birth Rosario, Argentina
Height 1.84 m (6 ft 0 in)
Playing position Defender
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1977–1978 Newell's Old Boys 25 (0)
1978–1979 Instituto 10 (0)
1979–1980 Argentino (R) 30 (1)
Total 65 (1)
Teams managed
1990–1992 Newell's Old Boys
1992–1994 Atlas
1995–1996 América
1997–1998 Vélez Sársfield
1998 Espanyol
1998–2004 Argentina
2007–2011 Chile
2011–2013 Athletic Bilbao
2014–2015 Marseille

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (goals)

Marcelo Alberto Bielsa Caldera (locally: [marˈselo alˈβerto ˈβjelsa ˈkaldeɾa], nicknamed Loco Bielsa [ˈloko ˈβjelsa], English: Madman Bielsa; born 21 July 1955) is an Argentine football coach .[1] Bielsa has managed football clubs and also the national teams of Argentina and Chile. In Chile, he achieved cult status due to the improved results of the national team under his leadership. His personality and gestures during his stance in Chile captured the attention of media and unleashed a series of minor controversies both in sports and politics. On 8 August 2015, Bielsa resigned as Marseille's coach.

In 1980, after retiring from playing in football, Bielsa decided to start a career as a football manager. His first assignment was coaching the youth divisions of Argentine club Newell's Old Boys. In 1990, Bielsa was given the task of managing Newell's first team where he would later go on to win the 1990 Torneo Apertura and the 1990–91 Torneo Integración defeating Boca Juniors on penalties. El Loco managed the squad that competed in the final of the 1992 Copa Libertadores losing to São Paulo on penalties. Weeks later after enduring defeat in the Copa Libertadores final, Bielsa and Newell's won the 1992 Torneo Clausura.[2]

Early years

As a child, Bielsa opted to support Newell's Old Boys instead of neighbors and eternal rivals Rosario Central, the team his father passionately followed. Coming from a family steeped in politics and law, Bielsa decided to break with tradition by dedicating his life to football.[3] His vocation was in stark contrast to that of his older brother Rafael who is a politician as of 2007, national deputy from the Capital District of Buenos Aires, while his sister María Eugenia is a former vicegovernor of the province of Santa Fe. He played as a defender in Newell's Old Boys' First Division Team, but soon retired at the age of 25. Bielsa went on to develop his career as coach in that team after qualifying as a physical education teacher. He led Newell's to several wins in the early 1990s. He moved to Mexico in 1992, briefly coaching Club Atlas and Club América. Bielsa returned to Argentina in 1997 to manage Vélez Sársfield.

Managerial career

The Argentine national team

In 1998 Bielsa was given the job of manager at Espanyol but he soon left after being offered the management of Argentina's national team later that year, taking over after a four-year period by Daniel Passarella as manager. Argentina won the qualifiers to 2002 World Cup but did not go through the first knockout round.[4] Despite this, Bielsa was given a second chance to lead Argentina to major success and stayed on his position. The Albicelestes were runners-up in 2004 Copa América and won the 2004 Olympic Games' gold medal.[5] His team became the first Latin American team to win the Olympic title in football since 1928, when Argentina beat Paraguay in the final.[6] Bielsa resigned at the end of 2004 and José Pekerman became Argentina's manager.[7]

The Chilean national team

Under his guidance the Chilean national team underwent many positive and negative historic firsts. For the first time in their history, Chile was able to earn a point playing Uruguay in Montevideo. Chile also suffered their worst defeat ever when playing at home during qualifiers losing 3–0 against Paraguay. This historic low was repeated again when Chile lost 3–0 against Brazil, which also marked the first home loss against Brazil in a qualification game in nearly 50 years. On 15 October 2008, Bielsa masterminded a 1–0 win over his native Argentina; it was Chile first win ever over Argentina in an official match and prompted the resignation of Argentina coach Alfio Basile.[8] Chile soundly beat Peru 3-1 in Lima, a location where they had won for the last time in 1985. Bielsa then had Chile win 2–0 at the Defensores del Chaco Stadium against host Paraguay, obtaining an away-triumph on this location for the first time after almost 30 years. The team continued the road to the World Cup with a victory over Bolivia, 4–0. After a 2–2 tie against Venezuela in Santiago and going to Brazil to lose 2–4 against them, they finally achieved qualification to the 2010 FIFA World Cup by defeating Colombia 4–2 which was also Chile's first ever away win against the Colombian team.

By helping Chile qualify for a World Cup after two tournament absences, Bielsa attained great popularity in Chile. His appointment brought about visible changes in the Chilean set-up, with the fast-tracking of young talents and a more attacking mindset away from home.[9] Due to the rumors that Bielsa would not continue to lead Chile after finishing their campaign on the FIFA World Cup 2010, Chilean fans campaigned for Bielsa to remain as coach of the Chilean national team, the movement being named "Bielsa is NOT leaving!"[10] On 2 August 2010, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, president of Chile's Asociación Nacional de Fútbol Profesional, announced that Bielsa would remain the coach of the Chilean National Selection until at least 2015.[11] El Loco stated that he would leave his position if Jorge Segovia was elected as President of the Chilean Football Board.[12] He followed through on this threat, despite Segovia's election being annulled, and resigned in February 2011.[13]

Athletic Bilbao

On 3 October 2011, Bielsa, a devout Catholic, visited the Poor Clares of Guernica alongside his wife. He wanted them to pray for his team, which they have done ever since.[14] The signing of Spanish Under-21 midfielder Ander Herrera was agreed well before the end of the season, although the young star elected to stay with formative club Real Zaragoza as a gesture of respect as they battled against relegation. However the players began to adjust to the changes as the season progressed, and following an away victory at local rivals Real Sociedad. Athletic produced a good run of Autumn form which included wins over Paris St-Germain, Osasuna and Sevilla as well as credible draws with Valencia and Barcelona only to drop points at home to newly promoted Granada.[15] The team also finished top of their Europa League group and defeated Lokomotiv Moscow in the last 32. Athletic then drew Manchester United and in impressive style won 3–2 in the first leg at Old Trafford, going on to knock them out of the tournament with a 2–1 victory at home. In the quarter-final, they went to Schalke and won the first leg 4–2, despite being 2–1 down after a Raúl brace on 72 minutes. Bilbao drew the second leg against Schalke 2–2, going through to the Europa League semi-finals with a favorable aggregate score of 6–4, to face Sporting Lisbon.[16][17][18]

Athletic lost the first leg of the semi final 2–1 in Portugal. They overturned this result in the return leg and ran out 4–3 winners on aggregate when Llorente scored the winner in the 88th minute. They were now set to face Atlético Madrid in an all Spanish Europa League final.[19][20][21] They lost 3–0 to Atletico Madrid on 9 May in the Europa League final at the Arena Națională in Bucharest, Romania.[22][23][24][25] On 25 May 2012, they also lost the Copa del Rey Final against Barcelona in Vicente Calderón, Madrid with score 3–0.[26] The 2012-13 season was a major disappointment for Athletic Bilbao, the sale of key midfielder Javi Martinez and with striker Fernando Llorente frozen out of the club over contract disagreements, Bilbao's performances faltered, finishing only twelfth. On 7 June 2013, Athletic's president revealed that Bielsa would not be offered a new contract. His contract expired on 30 June 2013.


Bielsa as a coach of Olympique de Marseille in 2015.

On 2 May 2014, Olympique de Marseille president Vincent Labrune announced the hiring of Bielsa as his team's coach on a French radio station. Labrune had previously confirmed an agreement in principle had been reached after the club's 0-0 Ligue 1 draw with LOSC Lille Metropole on 20 April. Bielsa signed a two-year contract, to begin after the 2014 FIFA World Cup, thus becoming the club's first Argentine coach.[27]

On 8 August 2015, after losing opening Ligue 1 match against Caen, Bielsa announced his resignation as the result of conflicts with his management .[28]

Coaching style

Bielsa's signature formation in his squads, which he made famous and brought to the front of the world's mainstream football scene during his coaching tenures in the Argentina national football team, Chile national football team, Athletic Bilbao and Olympique de Marseille, is the 3-3-3-1 formation.

For this formation, the players are: 3 defenders (1 líbero with 2 stoppers at each side), 3 midfielders (1 central midfielder with 2 lateral-volantes at each side), 3 attacking midfielders (1 enganche and 2 wingers at each side), and 1 centerforward. 3-3-3-1 allows great transitions from defending to attacking, as many of the players used in the formation can perform both defensive and attacking tasks. Moreover, it establishes superiority in numbers in every part of the field, since with this formation his teams could defend with 7 players, attack with 6-7 players, or protect a scoreline by overwhelming the midfield with 6 players. To use 3-3-3-1, all players have to quickly set to attacking positions when the ball is in the team's possession, and all players have to aggressively press and recover the ball when it isn't in possession, so it requires great teamwork and understanding between teammates.[29]

This signature style of Bielsa's has had so much influence in the football scene that many present coaches, former players under Bielsa's command, are heavily influenced by the style, like Gerardo Martino, Mauricio Pochettino, Matías Almeyda and Marcelo Gallardo.

A fanatic of football videos that he adds to his collection, Bielsa, on occasion, checks pitch measurements by pacing them out before deciding on a particular formation. He allocates separate training times for different parts of his squad. Former Argentine national team captain Roberto Ayala, a defender under Bielsa, stated "Sometimes we wouldn't see any of the strikers, because he'd have them training at a different time, and it was the same with the midfielders."[3]

He is known for watching and collecting numerous football videos to the point of obsession. He edits and analyzes each video for each individual player. He also utilizes statistical software and other technological tools to prepare for games. John Carlin, an English journalist, has stated that Bielsa has "the most learned football library on the planet." [30]

Former Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente said in an interview, "At first he seems tough and he may even annoy you with his persistence and don't-take-no-for-an-answer resilience, but in the end he is a genius." [31] Current Bayern Munich and former Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola called him the "best manager in the world" in 2012.[32]

As Bielsa refuses to grant exclusive interviews, the press conference has become his preferred method of communication. He has been known to field every last question from the assembled media during these gatherings. If the talk turns to the intricacies of the game, a three- or even four-hour press conference is possible. According to him: Every section of the media should get the same attention from me, from the capital's most prominent TV channel to the smallest newspaper in the provinces.[3]

Managerial statistics

As of 13 December 2015[33]
Team From To Record
G W D L Win %
Argentina 1998 2004 68 42 16 10 61.76
Chile 11 July 2007 4 February 2011 66 34 12 20 51.52
Athletic Bilbao 7 July 2011 30 June 2013 112 43 31 38 38.39
Marseille 17 May 2014 8 August 2015 41 21 7 13 51.22
21 December 2015 0 0 0 0 !
Total 282 137 65 80 48.58

Chile's results


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  10. ¡Bielsa NO se va!
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  32. "Guardiola: «Bielsa es el mejor entrenador del planeta»".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "Managerial statistics". Retrieved 27 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links