Former Leeds United defender delivers his verdict on 'icon' Marcelo Bielsa's future and Whites European dream

European football should be the aim for Leeds United next season but keeping Marcelo Bielsa will be 'massive' according to former defender Dominic Matteo.

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 5:48 pm
LEGENDARY STATUS - Dominic Matteo says Marcelo Bielsa staying at Leeds United is massive for the club and their European hopes. Pic: Getty

Matteo, who experienced Champions League football at Elland Road, believes the club should be targetting a place in the Europa League when they return to action in August for the 2021/22 campaign, having firmly established themselves as a mid-table outfit during the current season.

With five games remaining Leeds sit ninth in the Premier League table, six points behind seventh-placed Tottenham who presently occupy what is likely to be the Europa Conference League qualification spot.

Leeds are still to welcome Spurs to Elland Road in their final fixtures but a bid for European football is far more likely to come next season in Matteo's estimation.

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"It looks like a Europa League slot might be too much of an ask this season but as a club you've got to be looking at the following season and what we can improve on," he told the YEP.

"As a Leeds player you have to be thinking we need to finish higher next season. Bielsa will be thinking what's the next step and how do we get this club into Europe. I know it's early days but a manager like Bielsa will be thinking what's next. He'll want to finish higher and you've got to have that mentality."

With a number of signings expected this summer to try and strengthen the squad, the experience of a fine first season back in the top flight and the addition of fans to stadiums next season, Matteo hopes for even better from his former club.

"We'll bring in a few players, strengthen again, try to keep players and have a real blast at it next season," he said.

"If Bielsa does stay, he's been so good and so clear that the players know exactly what they're doing and hopefully that can just roll into next season.

"We've seen this year the improvement in clubs like Villa. There's always the usual big hitters but after a year of Premier League experience I hope we can kick on a little bit. Without getting carried away, I'm excited to see fans back in and how Leeds can improve on this season."

Key to it all however is keeping the head coach at the helm. Bielsa's future is still not decided, although owner Andrea Radrizzani said last week he hopes and believes they can continue to work together beyond this season.

"It's massive for Leeds to keep Marcelo Bielsa massive," said Matteo.

"He's an icon of the club. To earn the legendary status he's got in three years is incredible. He's a breath of fresh air, we all love watching his team and you can tell pundits are all excited about his football. He's a football philosopher, he understands the game inside and out and Leeds need to keep him if they can.

"He comes across as such a genuine guy. It doesn't feel like it's ever financial with him, that's just a feeling I get. I think it comes down to his family, his team around him and everyone being on the same page. If they are, he'll stay. But I think if he senses any doubt he will leave.

"He doesn't look like he's ready to sit back and relax yet.

"Losing someone like him would be difficult, he would be a hard act to replace because of the way his team plays, the way he has the lads training.

"If he could stay and get to five years with Leeds United, it gives the club a real chance to build on what he's done. Let's keep our fingers crossed."