Leeds United want their next head coach in place before the end of this week following further talks with top target Marcelo Bielsa.
Sources in South America have played down claims that an agreement between Leeds and Bielsa is effectively in place but United are discussing a contract with the 62-year-old and plan to bring their search to an end in the coming days with their squad due to begin pre-season in less than three weeks.
Bielsa, the renowned Argentine who has a reputation as one of world football’s most innovative coaches, emerged as Leeds’ preferred choice to replace Paul Heckingbottom after Heckingbottom was sacked on Friday morning.
United, whose director of football Victor Orta has been pushing the chase for Bielsa’s signature, had been in touch with him prior to Heckingbottom’s dismissal to assess the likelihood of Bielsa considering the job at Elland Road if the club decided to change head coach.
Bielsa’s interest in taking charge of Leeds is described as “serious” but a CV showing time in charge of Argentina, Chile, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille has given him a strong hand in negotiations, despite him being out of work since his sacking by Lille in December.
Sources close to him have denied reports that securing a work permit from the Football Association was the only obstacle currently stopping Bielsa becoming United’s next boss but the Championship side planned to submit a contract to him early this week.
Bielsa would rank amongst the boldest and most high-profile appointments ever made by Leeds if the club’s pursuit paid off but United also have been weighing up alternative options despite their desire to hand Bielsa the reins.
The club’s first-team squad are scheduled to begin pre-season training on June 25 – two weeks on Monday – and want Heckingbottom’s successor and backroom staff installed in advance of that date.