Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says he wants to see Leeds United in the Premier League next season, to give the division the taste of a “special manager” in Marcelo Bielsa.
Guardiola, who Bielsa convinced to step into management before the Spaniard’s first job at Barcelona, gave the Argentinian his backing after a weekend in which United’s head coach came under fire for his scouting methods.
Bielsa was widely criticised for sending a member of his staff to watch Derby County train ahead of their visit to Elland Road on Friday night but Leeds responded to the furore with a compelling performance against County, stretching four points clear at the top of the Championship after a 2-0 win.
United are 19 games away from securing a return to the Premier League, 15 years after their relegation in 2004.
Bielsa’s career in management has inspired a crowd of elite coaches, Guardiola included, and Leeds’ dramatic improvement under him is enhancing his reputation as a tactical expert.
Guardiola said the 63-year-old’s strength was raising the performance levels of players under him and creating an environment where “everyone who works with him is better.”
Speaking before City’s Premier League game at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers tonight, Guardiola said: “I love him as a human being. He trained me when I was young in a incredible way and I feel his success like my success. I'm not involved in any way but I like the people I like doing well.
“I think he's the best because I always try to listen to what the players say about their manager. It's the real truth. “For the guys in charge of the big clubs it's easier than the other ones. We win because we are in the big clubs with the big players. But everyone who works with him is a better player and the teams are better. That's why he’s a special manager and special person.
“I'm a supporter of Leeds and hopefully next season they can be in the Premier League. It would be good for the Premier League.”
Bielsa came to England for the first time after Leeds made him an offer to be the highest-paid manager in their history during the summer.
He agreed to drop into the second division despite previously working with top-tier clubs in Spain and France.
Guardiola said: “I admire him for being the Argentina manager and being at big clubs but having the humility to go in the Championship, going to a historic team like Leeds (to) put them on top and back to the Premier League. I wish him all the best.”