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Leeds United's players set to start pre-season early if Bielsa takes Elland Road job

Marcelo Bielsa
Marcelo Bielsa
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Leeds United’s players have been told to be ready for an early return to pre-season training as the club work towards a deal to secure Marcelo Bielsa as their new head coach.

The squad at Leeds could begin pre-season at Thorp Arch next Monday, seven days ahead of schedule, after being told by director of football Victor Orta that a decision on the next first-team boss might lead to a premature start.

United’s players were originally due to report back to the club’s training ground on June 25 for three full weeks of training before contesting their first friendly at Forest Green Rovers on July 17.

Leeds are in advanced talks with Bielsa and the Argentinian is understood to have told the club that he wants to begin work with the club’s squad at the earliest opportunity if he and United successfully finalise the terms of a contract at Elland Road.

Bielsa wants to bring about a significant overhaul of Leeds’ training routine and infrastructure as part of his plans for managing the Championship side.

The 62-year-old is still in South America after spending the weekend reviewing the terms of the deal proposed by Leeds, though his contract remains unsigned. An appointment would be dependent on Bielsa securing a work permit from the Football Association and navigating other administrative hurdles.

United are set on recruiting the former Argentina and Chile coach but have been pursuing other options in the background to guard against the possibility of the process breaking down.

Leeds are looking at one foreign alternative - understood to be Matias Almeyda, a former Argentina international who began his coaching career at River Plate and has been managing Guadalajara in Mexico - and have also identified a British coach as a candidate.

Bielsa, however, has been the frontrunner since officials from United flew to meet him in Argentina last month and Leeds are intent on landing him after weeks of talks.

In the aftermath of the approach from Elland Road, Bielsa began analysing United’s existing squad and their fixtures from last season to prepare himself for the post. Leeds have also discussed prospective transfers with him and are still to make their first signing of the window.

United’s pre-season schedule was arranged in the absence of a head coach with Paul Heckingbottom’s sacking in the pipeline when their start date and list of friendlies was announced.

The club looked into a summer tour of Italy and were poised to finalise a schedule there until concerns over the cost of the trip led them to settle for a list of games in England.

Their trip to Forest Green - arranged as part of the deal which brought academy midfielder Jordan Stephens to Elland Road in January - will be followed by matches at Oxford United, York City and Guiseley before Spanish side Las Palmas provide the opposition for Leeds’ last game at Elland Road on July 29. The 2018-19 Championship season begins the following weekend.

The majority of United’s first-team players - those who were left out of the club’s post-season tour of Myanmar - have been on holiday for the past five weeks but the club are heading rapidly towards the new campaign and the EFL will announce its fixtures for next season on June 21, a week on Thursday.