Leeds United are keeping tabs on former River Plate boss Matias Almeyda as they wait to see if Marcelo Bielsa will agree to become their next head coach.
Almeyda, a fellow Argentinian, is one of two fall-back options for Leeds with Bielsa deep into negotiations about the job at Elland Road and United under growing pressure to bring their hunt for a new first-team manager to a conclusion.
Bielsa has been Leeds’ clear first choice since the sacking of former head coach Paul Heckingbottom on June 1 and the club are hopeful of finalising a contract which makes the respected 62-year-old the highest-paid boss in their history.
Bielsa’s interest in coming to England and his willingness to manage in the Championship on the right terms has pushed discussions forward since officials from Leeds first flew out to meet with him and his advisors last month.
United anticipated a complicated sequence of talks and Bielsa would be required to go through a Football Association work permit hearing before applying for a visa from the Home Office but Leeds have indicated that an agreement is edging closer by telling their players to prepare to start pre-season training a week ahead of schedule.
Bielsa, who has spent time assessing the current squad and their performances in the Championship last season, has told United that he would want to bring forward the original June 25 start date for pre-season.
Leeds managing director Angus Kin near said on the day of Heckingbottom’s dismissal that the club would seek a “quick appointment” but productive discussions with Bielsa have convinced them to stick with talks for as long as necessary.
The board at Elland Road appear confident of landing his signature having found him receptive to their proposal for a salary and financial package.
The YEP understands that Bielsa, who reviewed the terms of his deal over the weekend, is happy with the wage on offer but is still seeking assurances about the club’s plans and methods of working under him.
Almeyda is one of two alternatives – the other a British coach – and would come into the frame quickly if Leeds’ attempt to secure Bielsa falls through.
The 44-year-old is a former Lazio, Parma and Inter midfielder who was capped more than 30 times by Argentina and played for the national team while Bielsa was in charge between 1998 and 2004.
Almeyda finished his playing career at River Plate and took his first steps into management there. He has since managed Atletico Banfield in Argentina and Chivas Guadalajara in Mexico.
His three-year reign as Chivas – a spell which yielded multiple trophies – ended last month when the club announced that he would not be returning for the new Mexican season. Almeyda was reported to have been unhappy with the club’s pre-season plans.
With Almeyda unattached, Leeds believe they could move rapidly on that appointment if Bielsa forces them to turn elsewhere.