London, United Kingdom, Jan 16 – Leeds United’s iconic Argentine manager Marcelo Bielsa admitted on Wednesday he has spied on training sessions of all the Yorkshire side’s opponents this season, adding more fuel to the debate over the tactic.
Bielsa’s side are four points clear at the top of the Championship, England football’s second tier, after beating Derby County 2-0 on Friday.
But the match was overshadowed by Bielsa’s admission he sent a club employee to spy on Derby’s training session a day before the game.
In a statement, Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani apologised on Saturday for the incident, which is now the subject of a Football Association investigation.
Bielsa called an impromptu press conference on Wednesday, sparking rumours he could sensationally resign as he has in shock fashion at Lazio and Marseille in the past.
However, the former Argentina manager instead offered up more information on how he scouts the opposition in what he claimed is a bid to help the FA’s investigation.
“I observed all the rivals we played against. We watched all the training sessions before we played them,” said Bielsa.
“My goal is to make this easier for the investigation. By doing this I assume the possible sanctions by the authorities.”
– Bielsa ‘has to adapt’ –
Derby manager Frank Lampard questioned Bielsa’s sportsmanship and refuted the excuse of cultural differences with Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino insisting the practice is normal in Argentina.
But Bielsa was adamant what he has done is not illegal.
“As Frank Lampard said, he doesn’t believe that I didn’t have bad intentions. He believes I violated the fair play spirit. I have to adapt to the rules linked to the habits of English football,” added Bielsa.
“I did not try to get an unfair sporting advantage. But I did it because it was not illegal or violating specific laws.”
Lampard, speaking ahead of Derby’s FA Cup tie at Southampton on Wednesday, refused to get drawn into the row again.
“I made quite a few comments earlier in the week about it,” he told the BBC.
“I haven’t seen the latest press conference but have been told about it in general terms. It is one to comment on, or not, when I know more about it.”
Former England striker Alan Shearer was more critical, saying: “I don’t think it is anything new but it is definitely wrong.
“When you go away into European games and you train at the stadium the night before, you are almost certain that there is someone from the opposition watching.
“But you can’t go into someone’s private training ground when you are not invited, and then take information from that.”
Supported by his coaching staff, Bielsa then talked journalists through his preparation for matches with four hours dedicated to analysing every game the opposition has played this season.
Famed for an attacking, high-pressing style of football that has won admirers during spells coaching in Argentina, Chile, Spain and France, Bielsa has rejuvenated Leeds’ fortunes and is on the brink of bringing the club back to the Premier League for the first time in 15 years.
His coaching style has also proved to be an inspiration for the likes of Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone, Pochettino and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, who has described Bielsa as the best coach on the planet.
“I think he’s the best because I always try to listen to what the players say about their manager. It’s the real truth,” Guardiola said this week.