A dejected Marcelo Bielsa said he was ready to listen to offers from Leeds United to remain as head coach next season after the club’s play-off bid came to a shuffering end in a semi-final defeat to Derby County.
Derby settled a manic second leg at Elland Road by winning 4-2 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate, finishing United’s season at a stroke and immediately turning attention to Bielsa’s future.
Leeds were on the verge of the Championship final after a 1-0 win at Pride Park on Saturday but two goals from Jack Marriott, one from Mason Mount and a penalty from Harry Wilson settled a dramatic tie in which both teams were reduced to 10 men in the closing stages.
Gaetano Berardi received a red card on 78 minutes and Scott Malone walked for a second bookable offence in injury-time as Leeds tried desperately to forced the semi-final into extra-time.
Bielsa’s contract at Elland Road - signed last June - would have automatically extended for a second season had Leeds been promoted to the Premier League but his position is up for discussion with the club facing a 16th successive year in the EFL.
Leeds and majority shareholder Andrea Radrizzani plan to retain him for another 12 months but will be powerless to act if the popular Argentinian chooses to depart.
Speaking at full-time, Bielsa said: “As you can imagine, it's not convenient to talk about this right now. This process, you know about it, is that if the club offers me the possibility to carry on I will listen to their proposal.
“What the players offered to the club this season will be valued over time. The fact that we couldn’t reach the goals we were so close to leaves a feeling of disappointment but you can have another perspective about it.
“I already mentioned that it would be very difficult to see these players play at the same level in another season. We had so many difficulties but I have to say that we had the conditions to finish first or second (in the table) and all the conditions to be the best team in the play-offs.
“We couldn’t finish first or second and we couldn't reach the final. Obviously there are mistakes that prevented us from reaching our goals and when you can’t reach something that was reachable, it always puts doubt on the head coach.”
Leeds took control of the second leg by moving 2-0 ahead on aggregate through a goal from Stuart Dallas but a bad mix-up between goalkeeper Kiko Casilla and captain Liam Cooper let Derby back into the game on the stroke of half-time and United conceded twice in the early stages of the second half to leave them staring at defeat.
Dallas brought Leeds level again at 3-3 but Marriott’s chip five minutes from time gave United with no way back, despite the urgings of a crowd of 36,000.
The play-offs offered a second chance to Bielsa after his squad dropped out of the Championship’s automatic promotion places in their final four fixtures.
Bielsa said: “If you have the resources to reach something and you don't reach it, you have to assume the responsibility.
“The team had 20 minutes lacking control but I couldn't find a solution and my job is to find solutions to problems, especially when there are structural problems. We had 20 minutes of disorder. I couldn't imagine any solution. I feel very sad for the players.”
Derby boss Frank Lampard and Bielsa clashed in January over the ‘Spygate’ dispute and having been comprehensively beaten by Leeds three times this season, Derby found a way to set up a final against Aston Villa.
Asked if the Spygate saga was added satisfaction, Lampard said: “Maybe it is, I'm not going to lie. I've heard a lot of people saying (Derby) are crying about Spygate.
"But I haven't thought about Spygate for a long time. We prepared the players, we were able to prepare and we got a result.”