Samuel Saiz claimed that Marcelo Bielsa’s football had helped to put disciplinary issues behind him as he admitted to lacking motivation while Leeds United’s promotion bid was falling apart last season.
In an honest appraisal of his own character, Saiz said he had curbed his aggression under Bielsa’s wing and learned lessons from a first year with Leeds which started in style but fell away badly after the turn of the year.
The Spanish midfielder made a quick impression on English football in the early stages of last season and he quickly earned Bielsa’s admiration after the 63-year-old was named as United’s head coach in June.
In between, however, Saiz served a six-match ban for spitting in an FA Cup defeat to Newport County in January - an offence which led him to publicly apologise - and his form tailed off badly as Leeds dropped away from the Championship’s play-off positions.
That period called Saiz’s temperament into question and the former Huesca player conceded that his demoralised attitude in the second half of last term “can’t happen again”.
Bielsa, though, has kept Saiz at the centre of his plans, remaking recently that “the only player who can do what Samuel Saiz can do is himself.”
“I feel better,” Saiz said, “because Marcelo made the whole team be more aggressive from a football point of view, not from outside of football. We’re focused on being aggressive playing football.
“This season we trust more in each other. It's very hard for the opponent to have a chance to score and thanks to all this I feel more safe and I'm less aggressive, apart from the football on the pitch.
“I like the football fight with the opponents and I'm not afraid of that.”
Leeds, who travel to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday sitting third in the Championship after 12 games, led the division early on last season but experienced extended spells of poor results under former head coach Thomas Christiansen and rapidly lost touch with the play-offs under his successor, Paul Heckingbottom.
Saiz missed much of January and February as he completed a long suspension and struggled to assert the creative influence which Leeds benefited from earlier in the term but he insisted that the problems surrounding him had not made him question his future in England.
“Last season when we found out we couldn't make it to the play-offs, it was a moment that was hard for me,” Saiz admitted. “I had less motivation because I couldn't reach the objective. It's a problem that I had and it can't happen again.
“In every year you have good moments and bad moments but when you play at Elland Road and see all the fans supporting you, it gives you the strength to keep working and do better things. I went to other stadiums in the Premier League and these big clubs don't have the fans we have.”