Marcelo Bielsa has been hailed as “The Godfather” by former Leeds skipper Dominic Matteo.
Bielsa ended Leeds’ 16-year exile from the Premier League in his second season and Matteo says the world’s top coaches, like Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino, look up to him.
Matteo is in awe of the job he has done at Elland Road and was excited when the fixtures were released yesterday, revealing that Leeds will begin life back in the top flight at his old club Liverpool on September 12.
“I’ve been so impressed by him,” he said. “He’s old school, but he does not miss a trick and he’s always one step ahead.
“All the great managers around the world, they all look at what he’s been up to and learn from him.
“That’s the biggest compliment I can pay Marcelo Bielsa. He’s like the Godfather. He’s the boss and everyone has so much respect for him. You can see the response of the players. Leeds were a decent side in the Championship, but under Bielsa, they have been a different team. They’re transformed.
“He’s a breath of fresh air and I can’t wait to see what he brings to this season.”
Bielsa is known for his high-intensity, possession football and Matteo says the Argentinian has given Leeds back their identity.
The former defender, who made 146 appearances for Leeds between 2000 and 2004, feels Bielsa’s style will work in the top flight.
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“We’ve got an identity again,” he said. “You know how Leeds are going to play and Bielsa deserves a lot of credit.
“I remember the characters who helped shape me when I was growing up as a player at Liverpool – people like Ronnie Moran, who spent 50 years at Liverpool.
“That’s what we need at Leeds and Bielsa is like that. He gets the club and the players respond to him. The players have all bought into what he says.
“They will give anybody a game next season. They always have a go and if you have that attitude, you will win more than you lose.” He played in Leeds’ last Premier League game against Liverpool – a 2-2 draw at Elland Road in February 2004 – and is thrilled the clubs closest to his heart will meet in the opening fixture.
Matteo, who grew up at Liverpool before surprisingly being sold by Gerard Houllier, also played in Leeds’ 4-3 win in 2000 when Mark Viduka scored all four goals.
“You look at both teams, both champions,” he said. “Leeds have been outstanding under Bielsa and Liverpool head and shoulders above everyone else.
“It’s a great fixture. I remember the 4-3 and we had Mark Viduka to thank for that. He was incredible that day and it was one of the best performances I’ve seen in the Premier League.
“I always have mixed emotions when Leeds play Liverpool and I can’t wait for this game.”
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