'Sad' Marcelo Bielsa reflects on Mauricio Pochettino axing but Jack Clarke care at Leeds United stays the same

MARCELO BIELSA and Mauricio Pochettino go back a very long way.

Friday, 22nd November 2019, 6:50 am
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 8:59 am

Nearly three and a half decades have passed since Bielsa tried to convince Pochettino’s parents to allow their 13-year-old son to join his beloved Argentinian club Newell’s Old Boys.

‘El Loco’ was successful and the rest, as they say, was history with Pochettino taking his first steps en route to stardom as a centre back at Newell’s and latterly Argentina with Bielsa as head coach.

Pochettino eventually followed his great mentor into management, yet Bielsa then discovered on Tuesday that close ally Pochettino had been sacked as Tottenham Hotspur’s head coach.

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CLOSE: Marcelo Bielsa, right, gives instructions to his Argentina squad including Mauricio Pochettino, third left with pony tail, during the 2002 World Cup. Photo by DANIEL GARCIA/AFP via Getty Images.

Leeds United’s 64-year-old head coach is not one for divulging into relationships yet there is no hiding his sorrow at Pochettino’s dismissal.

Yet Bielsa is still able to take comfort, predicting that Pochettino will soon be back at one of the "best teams in the world" and vowing that the sacking of his close ally would have no impact on his own mentoring of United’s Spurs loanee Jack Clarke.

Teenage winger Clarke now has a new top boss to report to following Tottenham’s swift move to appoint Jose Mourinho as the club’s new manager on Wednesday morning around ten hours after sacking Pochettino late on Monday night.

That meant potential implications at Leeds with Pochettino having shelled out £9.5m to sign Clarke from Leeds in the summer before sending the winger back to Elland Road on a season-long loan.

Some 34 years after the duo’s first encounter in Argentina, Pochettino and Bielsa remain extremely close though Bielsa has never been one for using high-powered connections unfairly in a bid to push for signings or loans.

Clarke is back on loan at Leeds on merit though it will now be up to Mourinho and not Pochettino to judge the success of that loan spell.

Bielsa, though, says he will continue to strive to aid Clarke’s development in the best way possible with the Whites head coach saddened by Pochettino’s departure but knowing full well the 47-year-old will be back to fight on a big stage another day.

“I will talk not of the relationship I have with Pochettino but with what I have seen now in English football,” said Bielsa.

“The work Pochettino has done is brilliant. In the last year he put Tottenham at a high level in the world. This for any manager is an achievement that is very important.

“And for me it’s even more important yet because the team that played the final last year of the Champions League was a team that he built very carefully.

“The performance of this team was more linked with the collective play that they built between Pochettino and his players rather than because of top players bought for them.

“They didn’t buy big players to achieve this.

“This reality makes the work of Pochettino even more important and when someone who works professionally like that acquires credit it is absolutely deserved.

“Maybe he could not enjoy this credit and this achievement at Tottenham and I’m saying because I do not know the real situation.

“But he will take this credit because big teams in the world will try to take him. “He is a manager who for sure will lead one of the best teams in the world.

“And the background is that he made Tottenham one of the most important teams in the world.”

Tottenham’s decision to sack Pochettino just six months after the club had made last season’s Champions League final caused shockwaves around world football, even with Spurs slumped down in 14th in the Premier League table.

“I like and love him a lot,” said Bielsa, assessing how he felt emotionally by Pochettino’s dismissal.

“It upsets me. And when something that is not good happens to him I cannot ignore this.

“If we see the close effect of this situation we can be sad. I feel sad.

“But in 15 days he will be at the top again because when you see the things being far from them without looking at the recent facts, after you can see and you can realise what he really achieved.

“What I say now doesn’t link with the relationship that I have with Mauricio and everybody will realise when he takes the next team.

“Now he leaves a team that is attractive to Mourinho.”

Even if he has been loaned straight back out, £9.5m winger Clarke remains part of that team - and one for Mourinho and not Pochettino to now keep tabs on.

Bielsa, though, says it will be business as usual with the Whites head coach continuing to strive for the very best for the 18-year-old winger.

Rather like he might have 30 years ago with the younger Pochettino perhaps.

“I never talked with Pochettino about Jack Clarke and I didn’t talk with nobody at Tottenham about him so about my job it’s the same situation,” said Bielsa.

“Every day I try to do the best for Clarke and afterwards Tottenham and Clarke will value if what we are doing is good for him or not.”