What for a few days had been versions that ensured that his return to European football was an increasingly concrete possibility, was confirmed in the last few hours with the appearance of the protagonist himself assuring that he is willing to accept the challenge. Marcelo Bielsa, with a recorded video, was one of the salient points of the presentation of the electoral campaign of Inaki Arechabaletacandidate for president of Athletic Bilbao. The Argentine coach confirmed in that act that he accepted the proposal to lead the team if Arechabaleta becomes the new boss of the Spanish team next Friday.
In a video recorded in Argentina, Bielsa, with a notable physical change and very short hair, developed for an hour and a half what he thinks of the team and his plans to lead it since the 25th of the current day, after the elections for the replacement of authorities. A long and deep talk, like he did in 2011, when he introduced himself as Josu Urrutia’s coach. “Until Marcelino said no, we did not start with specific aspects of the agreement,” Arechabaleta said. And he added: “He is a Top 5 coach, the most revered in the world of football by professionals and coaches. He is a Marcelo of the future for Athletic. It is not to look at the past”, said the candidate of the Basque club.
Then it was Bielsa’s turn who explained in detail how the talks for a future agreement were given: “It is a very big responsibility to lead a team like Athletic, and even more so for me, who has already been there and I know what it is about . After communicating the interest to me, in mid-March, I wanted to do the evaluations to see if he was the right person. In March and April I went to see the team, they played well, I liked it. He understood that the best thing for Athletic was for the coach who was directing it to continue, because he saw that the project was not finished, it had room for growth and development. The answer that Iñaki (Arechabaleta) gave me was that they were going to wait for the position that Marcelino assumed and once he decided, we would talk again. Until the end of the League, I had not made a decision and, after Marcelino’s positioning, I thought about giving a positive answer”.
Bielsa was already at Bilbao between 2011 and 2013 and he would return ten seasons later to the team he qualified for the UEFA Europa League and Copa del Rey finals in 2012 and would do so with his entire coaching staff, so he would return with a working group that knows the Basque club perfectly. In that cycle, he led Athletic in 113 games, with a record of 43 wins, 31 draws and 39 losses.
De Marcos, Muniain and a Balenziaga, which Bielsa had ruled out in that first stage, still remain at the club from that stage. “I inherited a great team that Caparrós built and had been fifth, this is more like the aspects I try to convey to a team”, he explained.
True to his style and his obsession with work, he explained that he had watched all 380 LaLiga matches to catch up with the Spanish competition (all those of the teams from last season, without the relegated ones and incorporating the two that had been promoted) as well as those of Bilbao, four of Basconia (the subsidiary team) and three of the youth team. “From what I saw, it is very necessary to enter Europe, if it has not been reached it is not because of a lack of ambition, there are resources to achieve it. Sometimes the players ignore virtues that they possess”.
José Mari Amorrortu, advisor to Arechabaleta, was fundamental in the negotiation with Rosario. After Bielsa’s detailed study, the Argentine coach concluded that last year Athletic “deserved to be much closer to Betis and Real Sociedad than to Villarreal, they deserved much more than what they got, to be fifth or sixth”. And he explained: “It’s a very well-worked team in all its facets.”
In addition, he took some time to explain how his work methodology changed over the years. He divided his evolution into three stages: Newell’s, Atlas, América, Vélez and Espanyol; that of Argentina, Chile and Athletic; and Marseille, Lille and Leeds: “When I started there were four people on the coaching staff, now there are 20-25″. He said that the areas that he tries to cover are technical-tactical, physical preparation, video-analysis, health, injuries, psychological support, delegate, secretary and archive. And he finished: “They fired me in February in England because the team had a prolonged phase of negative results, it was the one that ran the most in the Premier and Europe”, he explained.