'He can play in all the best teams in the world' - Marcelo Bielsa on Leeds United's Mateusz Klich and the role luck played in his remarkable story
Marcelo Bielsa is widely praised for his part in Mateusz Klich's remarkable trajectory since 2018, not least by the Leeds United player himself, but the head coach is having none of it.
Klich has gone on record with the gratitude he feels towards Bielsa for coaching him to a Championship title and an integral role in a Premier League side, with a rise in significance for the Polish national team coming as a natural consequence.
Polish commentators believe Bielsa changed Klich and helped bring out the workhorse in him that has enabled his footballing ability to shine at Elland Road.Klich was ever present for Leeds under Bielsa, until the game at Derby County last season when the league title and promotion had already been won and the effects of the celebrations spilled over into the match preparation. Klich was finally rested at Pride Park, but normality was restored for the season finale against Charlton Athletic, giving the midfielder his 93rd start of Bielsa's 94 league and play-off games in charge.
His importance to Bielsaball has not waned as the level of opposition has jumped this season in the Premier League. Nine games in, Klich is yet to find himself outside the starting 11, but more impressively, is yet to look anything other than completely at home.
A goal against Liverpool on the opening day signalled his intention to compete among the 'big boys' and he has continued to do so, creating chances and, against Arsenal in particular, playing a full part in some really eye-catching football. The link-up play for which he was responsible in the visit to Elland Road of the Gunners was breathtaking and combined with his trademark box-to-box runs made him the best player on the park for much of the encounter.
Bielsa does not simply believe in Klich's top flight ability, he believes in his suitability for any team at any level. But when asked by the YEP to give an account of his initial impressions of the Pole, Bielsa went to great lengths to point out that it was by luck and not by some talent-spotting genius that he found a midfielder he would come to rely on. Klich, who was tried at centre-half by the head coach, was set to be the fourth-choice number eight and there was a real possibility his time at Leeds would come to an end.
Having spent the previous season out on loan, few around the club would have raised eyebrows at a departure. Then, according to Bielsa, luck intervened. Klich shone, helped create danger for Leeds and carved out a home for himself in the midfield.
"Klich for me is a player that can play in all the best teams in the world," he said.
"He is in Leeds by chance, it doesn't have to do with the fact that I decided he continued at Leeds.
"In the first pre-season I asked him if he would consider playing as a centre-back. It so happened that one pre season game, the last game before the start of season against Las Palmas , the candidates for the player to play in the number eight role started falling away. I'm referring to [Adam] Forshaw and Ronaldo Veira, their absence allowed him to play and show his ability. He hasn't been out of the team since.
"All the praise should go to him and to Victor Orta who is the player who brought him here."