Marcelo Bielsa will always be one of us, a larger-than-life Leeds United legend, up there with the finest in the club’s history.

Notwithstanding the manner of his departure from Elland Road – sacked in February 2022 after a run of poor results – Bielsa’s name will forever be etched in Leeds United folklore.

The Argentine secured his legacy at the club by guiding Leeds United back to the Premier League after a 16-year absence. His passion and charisma galvanized the whole city.

Amid the managerial merry-go-round that followed his axing, significant pockets of Leeds United fans held out hope that Bielsa could return to reprise his role.

The Squatting Argentine remains a fan favourite at Elland Road.

Life after Leeds United

Good managers don’t stay unemployed for too long, especially if your name is Marcelo Bielsa and your reputation precedes you.

Bielsa has acquired a reputation in the game as a consummate professional and a hard taskmaster. His training regimes with a special emphasis on physical conditioning are widely acclaimed.

So, what has Bielsa been up to since parting ways with Leeds United?

Uruguay swooped

Following a poor showing at the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup, during which Uruguay failed to get out of the group stages, Diego Alonso quit as head coach.

Marcelo Broli stepped into the breach for two post-World Cup friendlies against Japan and South Korea while Uruguay scoured the market for a long-term candidate. The suits would plump for Bielsa as the next substantive head coach.

The appointment marked a return to international management for Bielsa after previous spells with his native Argentina and Chile.

The perfect start

On 15 June 2023 Bielsa made his bow as Uruguay manager, orchestrating an emphatic 4-1 friendly win over Nicaragua for the perfect start to his reign.

Uruguay followed that up a few days later with another friendly win, this time a 2-0 victory over Cuba as Bielsa got another opportunity to run the rule over his squad ahead of the start of the CONMEBOL 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

The wins over Nicaragua and Cuba gave cause for cautious optimism about prospects for restoring Uruguay to her former standing as  one of South America’s elite football teams.

However, no one was getting carried away by friendly victories over minnows. Sterner tests lay ahead.

On 23 September 2023 Uruguay beat Chile 3-1 to get their CONMEBOL 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign off to a winning start.

With Chile going through an extended dip in form, it was an excellent but not overly surprising result.

Ecuador, on the other hand, presented a much sterner test. A 2-1 defeat in Quito burst Bielsa’s bubble and underscored the magnitude of the rebuilding job.

A month later Bielsa’s charges would dust themselves down and bounce back from the Ecuador setback with a creditable 2-2 draw away to Colombia as the new manager started to impose his philosophy on the squad.

Successive wins over Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia by the aggregate 7-0 score followed on the back of which Uruguay inserted themselves among the early pacesetters in their World Cup qualifying group.

The pick of the results, however, was the 2-0 win over Argentina to end the newly minted world champions’ 25-match unbeaten run, the longest sequence in Argentina’s World Cup qualifying history. The feat, achieved in the cauldron of Argentina’s own backyard in Buenos Aires, dispelled suggestions Uruguay’s preceding 2-0 win over Brazil was a fluke.

A 3-0 win over Bolivia consolidated Uruguay’s second place in their CONMEBOL 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying group. Bielsa’s men sit two points adrift of leaders Argentina after six games.

World Cup beckons

If Uruguay continue on their current trajectory, there is a very good chance we will see Marcelo Bielsa squatting on the touch line at the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

His record for Uruguay at the time of writing reads; nine matches, six wins, two draws and one defeat. Not too shabby.

I wonder whether Bielsa is keeping an eye on Leeds United’s promotion challenge. We are definitely keeping tabs on him, because he will always be one of us.


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

Write A Comment