Marcelo Bielsa against Carlo Ancelotti finally on the menu in Leeds United and Everton date at Goodison Park
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Despite a combined five and a half decades in management between them, it will be the first time he has gone head to head with Carlo Ancelotti.
Everton’s much-travelled Italian manager made his admiration for Bielsa clear in a recent interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.
“We have never met. I’d like to have dinner with him and listen to him talk about football.”
Dinner is off the agenda with the country still on lockdown in the ongoing battle against coronavirus, for now at least.
And in any case the only pressing date is tonight’s Premier League showdown between the Whites and the Toffees as Bielsa gets set to finally face a manager he respects on multiple levels, not least in their past experiences with and adulation for Diego Maradona.
Four years Ancelotti’s senior, Bielsa was already five years into his senior coaching career when Ancelotti first took the managerial reins at Serie B side Reggiana in 1995.
Bielsa, now 65, was coming to the end of two years in charge of Mexican side Atlas having begun his managerial career by steering first club and first love Newell’s Old Boys to two titles in Argentina.
Over a combined 55 years in management, Ancelotti and Bielsa have now managed 22 clubs between them, spanning some of the biggest institutions in the game both in terms of club and country.
Everton made big waves and a big statement when appointing Ancelotti as Marco Silva’s replacement in December 2019 as the experienced Italian added the Toffees on to a CV that features spells in charge of Parma, Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Napoli and Everton.
The midfielder’s playing career was not bad either – Parma, Roma and Milan, 26 caps for Italy and encounters against Maradona whom former Argentina boss Bielsa spent most of his pre-Everton press conference answering poignant questions about following Maradona’s death on Tuesday.
“He was for us and will continue to be an idol,” said Bielsa, and Ancelotti echoed the same thoughts.
Everton’s manager faced Maradona as a player at Roma and Milan during the former Argentina legend’s days with Napoli, a club Ancelotti later managed.
“He was – and still will be – a legend of football.”
“I tried to kick him, sometimes, but he was so, so strong and so fast.”
Bielsa and Ancelotti’s sides will now be looking to kick each other yet with the backdrop of an enormous amount of respect between two managers of whom a long awaited first meeting will finally present itself at Goodison Park.
“I have respect and admiration for Ancelotti,” said Bielsa.
“First of all, because he has been wanted by all the best teams in the world. He has been chosen by some of the most powerful institutions in football, which shows how good he is.
“The second thing is he has triumphed everywhere he has been.
“The third thing is he is a manager well respected by the players as well as his other colleagues.
"The last thing is his way of playing has never been criticised. His way of playing is always an unselfish one and it is always valuable.
"To have all of this in one manager is not very frequent.”
For both, what matters now is a return to a frequency of victories.
Everton began the season with four of them in a row to become the Premier Division’s early table toppers though last Sunday’s 3-2 triumph at Fulham ended a run of taking just one point from their next four games. Bielsa knows Everton’s form has been up and down.
“Week to week I have been commenting on a team’s results,” said Bielsa.
“I don’t need to give an explanation.
“The succession of their results speak for themselves, but then there’s the performance which we can analyse.”
And analysing Everton, says Bielsa, is not a straightforward task as the Whites head coach faced questions on whether United might be able to exploit Everton’s potential weaknesses in defence with the Toffees having conceded 16 goals so far this season, only one less than Leeds.
One week after giving a 20-minute answer asked to assess United’s defensive woes, Bielsa felt it appropriate to sit this one out.
“Prior, I have given an explanation into our defensive woes,” said Bielsa.
“I would require the same amount of time to give an explanation about them, so I can’t give you a synthetic answer.
“In that press conference, I appreciated the fact I was allowed to explain for 20 minutes as if not, I wouldn’t have been able to give a good answer.
“The same applies now.”
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Thank you Laura Collins