Every word Marcelo Bielsa said on Leeds United ban, James debut, Dallas, Klich, Firpo and Liverpool


Marcelo Bielsa was in a talkative mood this week as he sat down to speak with the Leeds United press pack.

The Argentine gave a brief post-match press conference following the 1-1 draw with Burnley prior to the international break, and subsequently was peppered with a barrage of questions on a range of topics as he faced the media once more.

To-ing and fro-ing over talisman Raphinha’s availability this weekend was top of the agenda as Leeds, Liverpool and three other Premier League sides remain in the dark over their Brazilian players.

Diplomatic as ever, Bielsa gave a reasoned and precise reading of the situation from his point-of-view.


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Since the 66-year-old last spoke, Daniel James has signed from Manchester United in a reported £25 million deal.

Understandably, the Leeds boss was questioned on the Welsh international’s arrival and whether he could be expected to feature this weekend.

Mateusz Klich and Junior Firpo’s COVID-enforced absences at Turf Moor were also discussed, with fears over their availability this Sunday allayed.

Here is every word the manager said on the visit of Liverpool as well as his Leeds players, old and new.

How pleased are you to get Dan James deal done? What will he bring? Will he play this weekend?

I think the decision to bring in James was the correct one by the club. He will be available this weekend – he’s a player who can play on either side that combines his ability to unbalance the opponent. He passages into the empty spaces, considering his speed.

How difficult has it been to plan for this weekend with the Raphinha uncertainty? Will he play?

The uncertainty wasn’t a difficult to prepare the game and the position on whether he plays will depend on what the clubs transmits to me.

What does he make of this situation? He seems like he’s caught in the middle of this.

The same as you’ve just said.

How important is it to get the first home win? Do you expect this second season to be more challenging?

To win is very important and winning is always indispensable. There’s always a motive to aim for that win that’s very determined. To compare a season which is already finished to one that’s only started is not convenient. What’s for sure is that there is no such thing as an easy season.

With regards to the Raphinha situation, how logical do you feel the effort is by Brazil to try and stop their players from playing this weekend?

The principal problem is that there are more games that can be absorbed, so the justification for there to be so many games and so many competitions is that football is very expensive due to how much the players cost, how much they earn and how all of us [interact] with football.

That’s the explanation that is offered when we talk about playing less, but that’s a truth in the middle because there being a lot of games doesn’t point to earning more to pay those [to] interpret the game but with there being more games, the industry of football gets more so what we have to do, clearly, is that we have to play less.

Those who receive fees by participating should earn less so that we can play less, and apart from that the grave problem in football is that every time there is less players for the league. So, another of the clear objectives that we have to pursue is to invest in the foundation [academy].

So, my position is to pause the inflation of football, the cost of the fees and how much the players cost, to play less so that the game can be better, reducing the cost to go to the stadiums so there are more spectators and to invest a lot in the foundation so there can be a lot of good players.

I read – I don’t know if it’s true but I think it is – that to protect the leagues that are below the Premier League, you can’t transmit or show football between 3-5pm, and that’s not altered in any shape or form and traditionally it’s been that way. For me that measure that is against the business, I think that is a magnificent measure, because as the divisions in the Premier League are better, the better the production of the players that originate from there [lower divisions] will be.

There are a lot of situations that jeopardise the improvement of the competition which is a way of improving the players. If a club has 40 players there is 20 players that don’t enrich the competition by participating for other teams, so also to improve the competition improves the players. And it’s also necessary not that a player leaves a club, goes to another club, develops and then comes back to that club, but that the weaker teams can be strengthened. The stronger the opposition is, the greater the growth of all the teams and even though it seems like I’m side-tracking the response, there are conclusions of common sense, that there’s no point of even commenting.

If a player leaves his club of origin for ten days, one day before the game he has to play in his league, when he comes back he can’t play that game and he has to quarantine for ten days – [in that case] he didn’t leave for ten days, he left for 21 days.

For four weeks in a month, there are three weeks he won’t be able to play for the club he belongs to. There are international breaks in September, October, November. In those three months if he’s not going to participate for three weeks, when you face that reality it’s impossible to think that nothing’s going to happen. The national teams have to take on board or develop their activities and they have to maintain that feeling that the footballer wants to represent their country – and that will be resolved in the way the authorities think best.

But the real problem is the one that I said before and I will summarise it. A lot of games will be excused [by the fact] that football is very expensive. That’s a truth but that’s not the whole truth because also it is convenient for the industry that there are a lot of games. They don’t care if the players are saturated, get injured or play badly because they play so much. So the great secret is that we all earn less and there are less games, and that increases the investment in the grassroots, so that the players are not so expensive and for football to be better.

Is Stuart Dallas available to you this weekend? Are Junior Firpo and Mateusz Klich available after their COVID positives?

The three of them are available.



Ashley Barnes of Burnley was booked for a foul on Stuart Dallas of Leeds United
Ashley Barnes of Burnley was booked for a foul on Stuart Dallas of Leeds United

How can Bamford representing his country develop him further?

The higher the competition he competes in, the better his growth is going to be. Apart from that in this case in particular, the manager of England is a great manager that will surely contribute things to him that will facilitate his development.

How has he been since he’s returned to Leeds this week?

I’ve only seen him this morning briefly but there’s only one response possible. He has to be very happy even if I haven’t seen him.

How much better is Daniel James as a person and a player after playing for Manchester United?

Personally I can’t say because I don’t know him. It’s been two years since I first had contact with his game and he’s maintained his characteristics in higher competition.

Is it harder playing a side of Liverpool’s calibre after an international break?

I don’t see how the international break makes it easier or harder to play.



Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

Talk me through your emotions of having full crowds at Elland Road. What is going through your mind when you see all those spectators?

The affection that the fans transmit in the Premier League at Elland Road, you can see it for yourself. Of course that makes you emotional, it increases your desire to want to win the game.

Is Robin Koch available again?

No, not yet.

It was clear from your presentation in 2019 – how much of that information do you feed back to your players and do some absorb it differently to others?

We do a summary of how the opponent defends and how they attack. We concentrate the information in a short space of time, short meetings of 10-15 minutes.

In the long term how do you see the three players (Dan James, Jack Harrison and Raphinha) playing together in the same team?

To begin with they play the same function. They are wide players who can play on the right or the left. They are players who develop the game well out wide which is not an easy task and throughout the season it is always necessary to have three or four players for one or two positions. And to have added James and kept Summerville, it gives us a good panorama of options.



Raphinha of Leeds United is set to miss out vs Liverpool due to a Fifa ban.
Raphinha of Leeds United is set to miss out vs Liverpool due to a Fifa ban.

How do you see Helder’s time at Leeds United – especially the last year to 18 months. How do you feel he coped at the club?

Helder was very important for us, I think he should have had more weight in the team than he did. He had the resources to make better performances than the ones he made. And in that way I feel somewhat responsible so that we weren’t able to collaborate to [best] show his resources. Helder is one of the most serious professionals that I have met throughout my career, he did always what I asked of him to try and be important in the team. That’s why I’m saddened that he’s left and I always hoped he would be able to show his resources in proportion to what they are. He has some very high physical and technical resources and I didn’t manage for them to be evident through the play of the team.

As someone who understands club vs country issue is there anything you’d like to see done short term to resolve this?

Sincerely I completely understand the position of the clubs and understand completely the needs or necessities of the national team. When I worked in the national teams we would play one game in every international break, then we started playing two and now three. I can’t imagine how we resolve this because if we listen to the arguments of the owners of the players and the managers of every nation, the least they can hope for is that regulations are met. This is completely deformed.

Imagine that a coach receives a player after he has flown 20 hours and then he has to play Thursday, Sunday and then Thursday again – it’s impossible for him to do anything other with his players than [decide] who plays so we just have to play no matter what and that’s impossible for it to end up well. It ends up making the player between the teams worse.

To ignore the preparation and rest that is needed for the spectacle of the players is absurd. To ignore the effect that has on the players, the accumulation of the games and the long hours of flying – that will end up injuring any player so clearly, there’s no way to resolve this by protecting football. They are protecting the commercial part of football but the game goes unprotected and football is going to waste in such a way and every time it’s going to become less attractive.

Now they say that the young generations, they only want to see the highlights, so that’s to say they only want 3-minute, 5-minute, 10-minute games and that’s exactly the consequence of the way football is being handled. Football has globalised, the game is reduced to ten minutes, for example look at the subject of VAR, that’s an element that brings fairness, it makes justice because the errors are verified but it brings up another thing: the intolerance to the errors, so because it’s impossible to accept an error, VAR is implemented but the intolerance of the error is dissolved.



Marcelo Bielsa gestures on the touchline at Elland Road

Errors are part of this game, without this we can’t conceive it and this infallible message also gets to the players and so this message gets back to the players and when they make a mistake they think before they act again, and their creativity is diluted.

What I notice every time is that football is less protected every time in its essence and the industry has taken the product as something. Every time it interests less people, they have to look for spectators all over the world because it’s not enough in one country or continent let alone a city or a club and the only thing that matters in the game is that the ten most attractive minutes.

The evolution of all these decisions, it’s difficult to imagine something better with all of these decisions and they justify it by saying those who are in this spectacle earn a lot of money which also is illogical, because who are they supposed to give what football brings if not to the players?

There are other paths: to play less, invest in the grassroots, to facilitate the entry of spectators with cheaper tickets and if you pay attention, a lot of these things German football is putting into practice. Apart from the tradition like Saturdays at 3pm this sometimes has a component of wisdom that is very big, and the traditions are protected by those who put them there. That’s why it’s so important to keep the essence of football from every country and every club.

What makes you want to still be here at Leeds and still involved?

We see how Leeds is managed, the decisions that the owner has taken, the way that the owner has managed this club is contradictory [to the norm]. He invests in the foundation, in technology for the foundation, in a way to find young players. They have improved facilities to take forward the programmes of work. The relationship he [Radrizzani] has with the fans, the respect. They are the responses to your question, apart from that I’m not a reference because despite everything we’re talking about it’s what the Premier League signifies that is absolutely desirable for every professional. I never dreamed I would be able to work in this league but the reference I made is the management of football as a product in the world.





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