Bielsa can make explosive impact at Barca if offered job in summer
Rumours in France suggest that Marseille manager Marcelo Bielsa, arguably the most learned man in the game of football, could take his unique methods back to Spain with Catalan giants Barcelona next summer.
The Argentine, 59, has enjoyed a terrific time on the pitch, barring a bizarre coffee incident, since joining L’OM at the beginning of this season, guiding them to top of Ligue 1, one point ahead of PSG.
However, Bielsa, who is nicknamed El Loco (the madman) has been openly unhappy about a number of off the field issues, particularly with his owner regarding transfer dealings.
Former Argentina and Chile head coach Bielsa has even declared that, despite being on a two-year contract, he has the choice to leave at the end of the season. Barcelona’s boss Luis Enrique, meanwhile, has endured a tough start to his tenure at the Nou Camp, with reports suggesting he could be replaced.
If Bielsa were to take on what would be the biggest job of his career, he would of course take no notice of Barca’s previous club philosophies. With him, he would bring his encyclopaedic knowledge of the game and famed 3-3-3-1 formation.
Barcelona’s current crop of players would not completely suit Bielsa, though, as, when able, he relies on a tall frontman to lead the attack. For his Argentina sides, he had the likes of Gabriel Batistuta and Hernan Crespo at his disposal, while for Athletic Bilbao he could call upon Fernando Llorente and now at Marseille, Andre-Pierre Gignac is smashing in the goals for him.
There is a very diminutive attack at Barca, with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez the main options. Perhaps Bielsa could sign a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-esque striker to finish off the play.
Bielsa’s exiting formation also requires an XI of vastly fit legs, which could signal the end for current club captain and legend Xavi, who will be 35 in January, and 31-year-old wing back Dani Alves (out of contract next summer).
Therefore, the first row of three in the line-up could consist of centre backs Gerard Pique and the impressive Jeremy Mathieu, with Javier Mascherano, who was awarded his first Argentina cap by Bielsa, in the sweeper position.
In front of them, La Masia graduate Martin Montoya or a new signing would be deployed at right back, with Sergio Busquets or box-to-box player Andres Iniesta protecting the back three, and Jordi Alba out left. They would provide support to the third superstar trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, with the lone striker ahead of them.
Perhaps it is time for Barcelona to try something new and a little ‘mad’, following their years of success with their tiki-taka style of play that was perfected under Pep Guardiola, who ironically sought Bielsa’s advice before taking over the position.
Current Bayern Munich boss Guardiola even once described the Argentine as “the best coach on the planet”, before adding that “he provides a sense of honesty to every game where a win or a loss means the same,” and even suggested Bielsa could one day take over at the Nou Camp.
Bielsa would certainly provide something different if a move to Barca works out, although club owners will have to be wary of his somewhat controversial past. He reportedly once confronted and charged at his own Newell’s Old Boys fans, whilst manager, with a grenade, after they surrounded his house following a humiliating defeat.
But his fearless nature is just what Barca need at present, as they have recently been dismantled by El Clasico rivals Real Madrid in La Liga, and have been somewhat unconvincing in the Champions League.
The once dominant side are now 13/8 second-favourites with Coral to win the Spanish domestic title, and even longer at 11/2 to lift Europe’s elite club competition.
Bielsa is certainly in the latter stages of his career, and going to Barca would give him the chance to earn the recognition his dedication to football deserves. He can try and add to his one prestigious medal of the 2004 Summer Olympics, and better Europa League and Copa del Rey final appearances at Bilbao.