Marcelo Bielsa sends nine-minute video message to Newell's Old Boys as club unveil new training complex - paid for with £3m of his money

Marcelo Bielsa dismissed it as a 'small gesture' but on Saturday night the impact of his £3m donation to Newell's Old Boys spoke for itself. The Argentinian club unveiled a new training facility at their home in Rosario, paid for with cash from Bielsa's pocket and designed with the help of architects in his family.

Monday, 5th November 2018, 12:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th November 2018, 4:51 am
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa walks out for Sunday's 2-1 win at Wigan.

The five-story complex has been dubbed the ‘Jorge Griffa Hotel’, honouring a stalwart of Newell’s who acted as Bielsa’s assistant in the 1990s and inspired their remarkable scouting system, but the name of Leeds United’s head coach was beamed onto the side of the building on Saturday, in a message reading: “Gracias Marcelo Bielsa.”

Newell’s, who Bielsa supported, played for and managed to two Argentinian titles, have joined the 21st century with a project which provides sleeping quarters for their players, rest areas, new dressing rooms and vastly improved facilities for video analysis. Bielsa wanted to help fund the construction and, according to those close to him, put up almost $4m to meet the cost of building work, a sum in excess of his annual salary at Leeds. His sister, a qualified architect, is reported to have drawn up the plans free of charge.

Bielsa explained last month that the donation was repayment for the opportunities and guidance Newell’s had given him at the very start of his career. “From the club who formed me, I received more from Newell’s Old Boys than what I gave to them,” Bielsa said. “I’m actually paying a debt to Newell’s Old Boys rather than making a gift.”

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Newell’s invited Bielsa to be attend the official opening of the complex over the weekend. Leeds’ trip to Wigan Athletic on Sunday prevented Bielsa from travelling. But the 63-year-old, who coached Newell’s between 1990 and 1992, sent a nine-minute video message to the gathering in Rosario, expressing his gratitude and humility over the decision to name their stadium after him nine years ago.

What had previously been known as El Coloso del Parque - ‘The Colossus of the Park’ - became Estadio Marcelo Bielsa in 2009. Bielsa said the acknowledgement was “one of the happiest days of my life” but insisted the honour should have gone instead to Griffa, the 83-year-old who Bielsa describes as “a master for me”. Griffa turned out at Saturday’s opening to formally cut the ribbon.

“From 1992 until now, I've had very few opportunities to communicate with Newell's fans,” Bielsa said in his video message. “The last time this happened was when they designated my name to the Coloso del Parque.

“That day I remember as one of the happiest of my life. To feel loved, and for this to be expressed by 40,000 people of which I feel one amongst them, has been an emotion which is hard to explain.

“There are occasions in which you can't express what you feel because the intensity of it overcomes you. At that moment I knew I didn't deserve the distinction I was being awarded. I’ve lived in close proximity to the last 50 years of Newell's (history) and in my opinion, the most important and influencing person in that period was Jorge Griffa. I knew with great clarity that it was him who deserved the recognition I received.

“As time went by I understood, or reached the conclusion, that all my professional career and great part of my personal development I owed to Newell's and Jorge. In that respect, I honestly believe that all I have received is a lot more than what I gave, or what I offered.”