Marcelo Bielsa insisted he was open to the idea of managing Leeds United for another year in the Championship amid mounting optimism at Elland Road that the Argentinian will remain as head coach next season.
Bielsa played down the fear that he would walk away if Leeds failed to win promotion to the Premier League, reiterating his intention to delay any decision while the Championship campaign was ongoing.
The 63-year-old’s contract with Leeds, signed by him last June, will automatically extend for another 12 months should the club reach the top flight through the play-offs but his future would be open to negotiation were the club left facing a 10th straight season in England’s second tier.
Officials at United are aware that any attempt to keep him in their current league would depend on Bielsa’s willingness to stay, though the terms of his deal would protect them financially if Bielsa left and took charge of another club.
Leeds, however, are confident that Bielsa is keen to stay on board regardless of their league status and have discussed further improvements to their Thorp Arch training ground with him.
Around £600,000 has already been spent upgrading the facility, on Bielsa’s advice, and further investment is planned if the Argentinian remains in the job.
Bielsa said last week that any decision was “not up to me and I don’t have any more response to that.”
But speaking today, he said: “I never said that if we don’t get promoted I won’t carry on my work here. I haven’t said I was going to leave and I haven’t said I was going to stay.
“I just said that it was not the moment to talk about the subject. I just said it’s about receiving a proposal and then accepting the proposal or not.
“I would never say that if we stay in the Championship I won’t stay here, otherwise you would say that the importance of this club is linked to the division they play in. For me this team and this club are important playing in the Premier League, the Championship or League One.
“I don’t want people to think that I’m not thankful because if after the year I spent here I limited my valuation of Leeds United to the fact that they play in one division or another, it would mean I’m not thankful.”
Bielsa’s year in charge of Leeds has been a rousing success, driving the club into serious contention for promotion and engaging a fanbase demoralised by a 13th-placed finish last term.
Leeds invested more than £3m in salaries for the former Argentina coach and his backroom staff and are ready to commit to the same cost even if promotion eludes them.
Bielsa said: “I give a lot of importance to the place that receives me and the club which allows me to belong to it. That’s why I can’t accept people saying that I’ll only stay here if we get promoted. I wouldn’t be respectful if I said this.
“I can’t say that I’m thankful to work at Leeds and be in the Championship and at the same time say that if I don’t get promoted I’ll leave. It would be meaningless.”