Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa gives his side of Lille story in €18m French court battle

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa appeared in a French industrial court via video call yesterday to give his version of what happened at Lille before his 2017 dismissal.

By Graham Smyth
Saturday, 13th February 2021, 11:10 am
COURT CASE - Marcelo Bielsa's time at Lille has led to a court battle with the French club. Leeds United's head coach is seeking damages from his former employer. Pic: Getty
COURT CASE - Marcelo Bielsa's time at Lille has led to a court battle with the French club. Leeds United's head coach is seeking damages from his former employer. Pic: Getty

The Argentine is claiming a sum of around 18 million euros from his former employer after contesting the club's claim of serious misconduct. A disputed pre-contract is at the heart of the court case.

During yesterday's hearing at Prud'hommes de Lille Bielsa spoke at length of what he said was a difficult working relationship with Luis Campos, sporting advisor to then club president Gérard Lopez.

"I've never managed to talk about football with Luis Campos, he's not interested in it. Only the commercial part interests him," said the Whites head coach according to 20 Minutes France.

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It was revealed in court that Bielsa had signed a pre-contract in February 2017 which stated that Bielsa and his staff would receive their entire salaries in the event of dismissal.

Bielsa's statement focused on Campos and player recruitment.

“We worked together with Luis Campos on recruitment,” said Bielsa.

"He offered me three players for each position, 33 players and we would agree on a choice. The replacement had to be defined before transferring a player who was at the club. But none of the planned 33 came to Lille. We had to look for the fourth, fifth, or even eighth option."

The sale of Nicolas de Préville, Bielsa said, was followed by Campos' recommendation of an inferior replacement who would cost more.

Bielsa's relationship with Campos deteriorated to such a point that the club's president had to step in and ask the head coach to work with his advisor. But Bielsa claims a meeting held with his players behind his back led to a sit down with Marc Ingla, Lille's sporting director, Campos and Bielsa's deputy Pablo Quiroga who now assists him at Leeds. The exact events of the argument were disputed by Bielsa and Lille's lawyer Bertrand Wambeke.

Wambeke told the court: "Upon entering, Quiroga said hello to Campos. He is scolded by Bielsa: 'How can you say hello to such a bandit?'.

“Luis Campos gets up and when he passes Bielsa he puts a finger on her shoulder and says 'You will answer for what you come to say in court.' It was Quiroga who stopped Bielsa from hitting Campos."

Bielsa argued it was Campos who wanted to hit him.

Lille suspended the Argentine in November 2017 and on December 15 announced his contract had been terminated.

A decision on the court battle is expected on July 2.