'I've calculated wrongly' - Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa on Cody Drameh Cardiff City move

Marcelo Bielsa refused to stand in the way of Cody Drameh's loan move to Cardiff City despite seeing opportunity for the youngster at Leeds United.

By Graham Smyth
Friday, 14th January 2022, 2:05 pm

Bielsa feels they have lost a 'very necessary' player for the rest of the season, considering the injury problems they're going through at present.

Yet although he has made it abundantly clear that he sees things differently to Drameh, the head coach insists it would be pointless to try and change a want-away player's mind.

Drameh sealed the move to the Championship outfit in midweek, just days after playing against West Ham United in the FA Cup. Leeds, who said the move came about following talks between director of football Victor Orta and the player's agent, did not include an option for Cardiff to make the deal permanent in the summer.

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Loaning out a right-back in the midst of an injury crisis was not an idea that came from Bielsa but he accepted Drameh's decision.

"I didn't think he needed to play games elsewhere," said the Argentine.

"He's very necessary with all the absences we have but he preferred to go and play outside of Leeds. In a situation in which opportunities for the youngsters has increased clearly, in this case Drameh would prefer to experiment outside our team. I consider that position valid and I don't think it makes sense to oppose him. What I imagined as a great opportunity, he imagined it in a different way. It's more important what he thinks than what I think. It's not convenient to impose in a situation where a player wants to belong or doesn't want to belong."

Drameh is one of a number of young players at Leeds who have made the step up from Under 23s football to the senior side over the past two seasons. Recently Bielsa's substitutes bench has been made up almost entirely of young, inexperienced players due to the severity of the injury problem at the club. There was, in Bielsa's mind, a big chance to be grasped for any young player on the verge of first team action.

LOAN MOVE - Cody Drameh has joined Cardiff City for the remainder of the season, despite what Marcelo Bielsa saw as a great chance for him at Leeds United. Pic: Getty

"[Is it] disappointing? No," he said.

"Having said that a lot of the young players who accompany the first team have made their intention to go elsewhere clear. Evidently what I've proposed to them is not what they desire, so I don't criticise that, I don't condemn it and it doesn't disappoint me. But clearly I've calculated things wrongly. What I consider a great opportunity - very few teams if any have had so many youngsters in their squad in the Premier League - those who are benefitting prefer to abandon the club, looking for another type of competition. Evidently what I imagine as a great chance, possibility, they don't. Perhaps I overvalue that you're in a 20-man squad in the best league in the world."

Bielsa believes there is no point in trying to keep a player with designs on a move elsewhere and anyone in that frame of mind will find no argument or obstacle from him.

"My position is that if he wants to leave I am not going to oppose it and I apply that to any player that wants to leave," he said.

"Any player that comes to me and says I don’t want to continue here, they can count on me for them to leave but I am not the only one that decides - the players have got contracts that they have signed and commitments with the club, I only limit myself to say that the reason why we shouldn’t keep them, which is that the player doesn’t want to be here. But when a player doesn’t want to be here it is better to understand him and find a way for him to leave, but without forgetting that professional football and that everything that is done is retributed and if it is retributed then we have rights and we have obligations, not only obligations and rights."

The departure leaves Leeds with very good senior options for the right-back berth in Luke Ayling, Stuart Dallas and Jamie Shackleton, although the latter is out with an Achilles problem and the former two have played through the pain barrier this season according to Bielsa.

Player availability aside, Bielsa appears more pained by the idea of a player preferring to play elsewhere instead of completing what he calls the 'cycle' of development planned for him by Leeds. Leeds bought Drameh from Fulham in their first round of 23s recruitment since promotion and he has shone under Mark Jackson, looking a good bet for Ayling's long-term successor at right-back.

“Of course, with a player leaving it is one alternative less," he said.

"I, in particular, and the club, we look after the squad that a player forms a part of to form a project. We make a big effort in the work for each of the players. We want cycles to be accomplished but there is not one of the young players who doesn’t want to leave or the majority of them. For me, I live that as a failure because of what we do for each player to triumph, not for each player to want to leave.

"When a young player that is receiving an opportunity wants to leave, what other readings do I have to make then that we have made a mistake? That we have taken a chance on a player, not Cody in particular, that prefers not to finish a cycle that has an objective to convert him into an elite player.”

Looking at the talent Leeds are fostering beneath the first team, talent that includes players like Drameh, Joe Gelhardt, Charlie Cresswell and Cysencio Summerville who have all now seen senior action, the future looks bright. But Bielsa says it will only be bright if players follow the example of Pascal Struijk, taking on board the work being undertaken to develop them and taking chances when they come.

“The future depends on them taking advantage of the opportunities that they receive and when they have opportunities they have to show that they are at the level of the Premier League," he said.

"For example, Pascal made himself a Premier League player by taking advantage of the opportunities and that’s what it’s about. The time that we spend developing young players is very, very, very big. It’s not only the people that work directly with the under 23s that do an admirable job, they are here all day but all the technical staff in the first team that we see every game that they play and everything that happens and comment it to the players . But evidently there is an error in how we interpret our work. If not, the players wouldn't leave or they would be grateful when they left what’s been done for them.”