Leeds United boss Bielsa wrong to spy on training sessions - Pochettino, Klopp and Hodgson have their say

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa.
Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa.
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Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino believe it is vital managers are allowed to make their final match preparations in privacy in the wake of the ‘Spygate’ row.

Pochettino found it difficult to condemn friend and former manager Marcelo Bielsa after the Leeds boss admitted spying on every opponent so far this season, but insisted his actions had been “wrong” in a country where such behaviour is still frowned upon.

Klopp agreed training sessions immediately before a match should be off-limits to opposition scouts, but Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said the practice was commonplace in continental Europe and did not deny he had been involved in similar behaviour to his mentor Bielsa while coaching abroad.

Bielsa admitted on Wednesday to having every one of their Championship opponents watched in training, having confessed the week before that he had instructed a member of Leeds staff to go to Derby’s training ground on January 10 to keep tabs on the Rams, who Leeds were playing the following evening.

The Argentinian called a hastily-arranged media briefing to present his analysis to journalists - but the act of “spying” on another team has split opinion.

“It’s a situation that makes me a little bit sad,” Tottenham coach Pochettino said.

“It’s so important to split my special personal relationship with him and describe a situation that happened a week ago.

“Always my love is going to be with him. He was a person so important to me, to build my career as a player. After we’re talking about a situation that happened last week and I can’t agree (with it).

“For me, it’s wrong. I can understand (Derby manager) Frank Lampard’s feelings. It’s a thing that’s not easy to explain.

“The English people and the culture you create in the past here gives you the opportunity to work in privacy that doesn’t happen maybe in Germany or Argentina or Spain.

“Rather than talking about football and how fantastic Leeds are doing in the Championship, we’re talking about one fact that doesn’t help the football.

“That’s why the situation makes me a little bit sad. Of course it doesn’t change my view about Marcelo but I can’t agree with what happened.”

Klopp was also of the belief that the final training sessions before a game should be sacrosanct.

The first-team training pitch at the centre of Liverpool’s Melwood training base is fitted with a retractable curtain and Klopp explained the reasons behind it.

“What do you think the reason for the curtains is?! It’s not there in all sessions, because most of the sessions it is not a problem,” he said when asked about the row.

“But the last two sessions especially, we use the curtains because it’s not for anybody else. You change a lot of things, you train on the set-pieces, you use the players who are available for the weekend. These are in the information everyone wants to have.

“I understand Bielsa wants all the information, that’s what we all want, but on the other hand you have to accept that we don’t get that.

“That’s my opinion. You don’t want to have somebody around in these special sessions, and whatever you prepare over the years has no bearing on the last two sessions...especially the last one before a game, only a couple of people should see. I really think we all agree on that.”

Guardiola, meanwhile, skirted around the question as to whether he had employed similar tactics before moving to England.

“In other countries everybody does that,” he said.

“I don’t know. It is more difficult. (Training) is private. It is closed. But in all the countries I have been before, everybody does it.

“My respect (for Bielsa) remains the same. He was clear in his statement. I admired what he did in the past, why should I change my opinion?”

Asked directly if he has ever sent anyone to spy on an opposition team, Guardiola replied: “In other countries everybody does it. Everybody does it.

“Everybody did it. It is the culture of the clubs. It was part of the club. Not because you said ‘you have to do it’. It is the (different) leagues.”

Former England boss Roy Hodgson fell down on the side of Pochettino and Klopp, and called on the authorities - with the Football Association and English Football League both having launched investigations - to act.

“Sneaking into other training grounds to see what teams are doing and get an advantage like that I do not understand at all, and I expect the governing bodies to do something about it,” the Crystal Palace boss said.

“You don’t spy on other people; that’s the bottom line. Spying is a word that one should be very wary of using because it’s got such negative undertones.

“How there’s even any suggestion that spying on someone who does not want you to be watching can be justifiable is amazing to me.”