Leeds United sacked manager Marcelo Bielsa on Sunday after a poor run of results that left the Premier League side just two points above the relegation zone.
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Saturday’s disheartening 4-0 defeat to Tottenham at Elland Road was their fourth straight defeat in a series that saw their leaky defense concede 17 goals.
The 66-year-old Argentine remained convinced he could turn things around, but the Leeds board decided they had to act to maintain their top status.
The club plans to make an announcement on Monday about Bielsa’s successor, with former RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg boss Jesse Marsch being the big favorites to take over.
Chairman Andrea Radrizzani said he was forced to act because of the club’s “precarious position” in the Premier League, saying it was the most difficult decision of his tenure at Leeds.
“With Marcelo as our head coach, we had three incredible campaigns and the good times returned to Elland Road,” he said. “He changed the culture of the club and brought us all a winning mentality.
“The moments created, especially in the 2019-20 season and winning promotion to the Premier League, will of course remain in all our memories for a long time, including myself and the fans.
“However, I have to act in the best interests of the club and I think a change is needed now to secure our Premier League status.”
Bielsa, who took charge in 2018 and brought the club back to the English top two years later, is honored in Leeds.
Murals of the mercurial Argentine adorn the walls around the northern city and the club’s Elland Road stadium.
– Premier League ‘promised land’ –
After ending Leeds’ 16-year absence from the Premier League, Bielsa finished ninth in their first season in reckless style.
But their second top flight campaign was hampered by injuries to key men such as forward Patrick Bamford, midfielder Kalvin Phillips and captain Liam Cooper.
Bielsa’s tactics and refusal to switch from his famed attacking style have also come under fire – the 60 goals they have conceded are the worst in the Premier League by any distance.
Nicknamed “El Loco” (the crazy man), the former boss of Argentina and Chile has a history of running away instead of getting fired.
In his previous three jobs, he resigned after Marseille’s first game of the 2015 season, two days as Lazio boss a year later and just a few months at Lille. His Leeds stay was the longest with a club during his managerial career.
Bielsa leaves with the club in 16th position, two points away from safety and in real danger of slipping back to the championship.
Leeds players and fans paid tribute to the late boss, who was often seen or crouched in a “bucket seat” next to the pitch.
“You saw in me what I didn’t even see in myself,” England international Phillips posted on Instagram, while Bamford tweeted that Bielsa “changed everything for everyone”.
The Leeds United Supporters’ Trust said in an open letter that the late boss transformed their side into “one of the most entertaining teams in world football” after he took over in 2018.
“The next three and a half years were a story none of us could have written,” the Trust said. “Triumph, failure and redemption. A return to the promised land.”
American coach Marsch, 48, has been out of work since he left RB Leipzig from the Bundesliga last year, but is best known for his work with New York Red Bulls and RB Salzburg.
Leeds are next in action when they visit Leicester on Saturday.