Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa admits spying on every Championship club during unprecedented rebuttal

Marcelo Bielsa admitted to sending scouts to watch training sessions of every club Leeds United had played this season as he launched an unprecedented rebuttal of claims that Leeds gained an advantage by spying on Derby County last week.

Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 7:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th January 2019, 2:36 pm
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

At an unscheduled press briefing called for 5pm this evening, Bielsa outlined in extraordinary detail the extent of his pre-match analysis process and poured water on the suggestion that dispatching a member of staff to see Derby train had influenced Friday night’s 2-0 win over Frank Lampard’s side.

Bielsa is at the centre of a storm surrounding his admission that he instructed one of his backroom team to travel to Derby last Thursday morning, 24 hours before the clubs met at Elland Road.

The staff member in question was stopped by police outside Derby’s training before being released without charge.

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Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Leeds and Bielsa are now being investigated by both the Football Association and the EFL following a complaint by Derby and Bielsa’s admission on Friday that he was solely responsible for the scouting trip.

The veteran Argentinian defended himself last week by saying he had employed the practice in other countries for much of his coaching career and he went further tonight by revealing that covert analysis of opposition training sessions had been carried out before each of Leeds’ competitive fixtures under him.

Bielsa, however, used an hour-long demonstration of his analysis at Thorp Arch - including what he said was almost 300-hours of time devoted to watching video footage of Derby alone - to play down the impact of last week’s controversy on a Championship clash which Leeds won comprehensively.

The United boss claimed his explanation and the open admission of watching other clubs train would make it “easier” for the FA and the EFL to conduct their investigations amid a wait to see if he or the club will face disciplinary charges.

“I'm going to make it easier for the investigation of the league,” Bielsa said. “I'm going to give the information it needs, and I assume the fact that my behaviour is observed from the most extreme position.

“In a few words I can say that we observed all the rivals we’ve played against. We watched the training sessions of all the opponents before we played against them.

“What I've done is not illegal. It's not specified (in the rules) and it's not restrained. We can discuss it and it's not seen as a good thing but it's not a violation of the law.

“I know that not everything that is legal is right to do but not all the wrong things you do are done with bad intentions. Because you have wrong behaviour doesn't mean you have bad intentions or the intention to cheat.

“Of course, if you observe something without the authorisation of the people being observed we call it spying and we say it is spying. I can't say it's the right thing to do.”

Lampard refused to accept Bielsa’s explanation that he was employing a tactic which is used elsewhere in the world but Bielsa reiterated his claim that spying on opposition camps was of limited value by revealing the staggering amount of the analysis conducted on each opposition club by his employees.

He criticised his own obsession with analysis as “stupid” butu admitted he was driven to assessing opposition sides excessively by an “anxiety” to cover every angle.

"Apart from the players, in your staff you have around 20 people,” Bielsa said. “These 20 people create a volume of information (about individual matches) which is absolutely not necessary.

“We think by doing that and gathering information we get closer to a win, even though we know it's not true. And in my case it's because I'm stupid enough to allow myself this sort of behaviour.

“I don't need to go to watch a training session of an opponent to know how the opponent plays. Why did I do it? Because it's not forbidden, I didn't know it would create such a reaction and even though this is not useful, it allows me to keep my anxiety low.”

Bielsa refused to say after Friday’s win if he would abandon his policy of attempting to covertly watch training sessions but speaking tonight he said: “As Lampard says, he doesn't believe I didn't have bad intentions. He believes I violated the fair-play spirit. So I have to adapt to the rules that are linked to the habits of English football.

“I'm not trying to justify my behaviour whatsoever. As Lampard said, we cannot justify my behaviour and he does not accept the explanation I gave.”