Marcelo Bielsa sacked by Leeds United as Whites explain decision to part with fan favourite

Leeds United plan to move on quickly but not forget after sacking Marcelo Bielsa after three-and-a-half years as coach.

Considering they had shown the 66-year-old Argentinian the door after a run of six winless games culminating in 20 goals conceded in the last five and defeats in all of the last four, the Whites went out of their way to express sadness at what chairman Andrea Radrizzani called “the toughest decision I have had to make during my tenure".

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Considering they had shown the 66-year-old Argentinian the door after a run of six winless games culminating in 20 goals conceded in the last five and defeats in all of the last four, the Whites went out of their way to express sadness at what chairman Andrea Radrizzani called “the toughest decision I have had to make during my tenure".

FINAL GAME: Marcelo Bielsa is deep in thought during Leeds United's 4-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur

There was a sense of something coming to an end during Saturday's feeble 4-0 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur, even though calls from the terraces for a change of management were conspicuous by their absence.

One media outlet jumped the gun on Saturday evening, announcing Bielsa had left by mutual consent, but fans were forced to wait until 11am on Sunday for official announcement that he had in fact been sacked.

Supporters soon gathered at Elland Road, and the in announcing the departure, the club said they had plans for a permanent tribute.

But with the decision forced by the club's perilous Premier League position, two points above the relegation zone having played two games more than Everton and Burnley, they hope to name Bielsa's successor today, with American Jesse Marsch the overwhelming favourite.

CHAMPIONS: Marcelo Bielsa led Leeds United to the Football League title and back into the Premier League after a 16-year absence

Bielsa transformed the Elland Road club during his time in charge, leading them back into the Premier League after 16 years away, but it was his style of play, his principles and his humility which were as much a part of his popularity.

"We had three incredible campaigns and the good times returned to Elland Road," said Radrizzani. "He changed the culture of the club and brought a winning mentality to us all. The moments created, particularly in the 2019-20 season and winning promotion to the Premier League, will of course live long in all our memories, myself and the fans included.

“However, I have to act in the best interest of the club and I believe a change is required now in order to secure our Premier League status. Recent results and performances have not met our expectations.”

The high point of his time saw Bielsa lead the Whites to ninth in the Premier League with a thrilling brand of football severe injury problems and some of the weaknesses which had been strengths in the good times hurt them badly.

POPULAR FIGURE: Marcelo Bielsa's football and humanity made him a hugely popular figure in Leeds but results ultimately caught up with him

The club would surely have been hoping to delay a change until the end of the season when Bielsa's contract expired, but events on the field have hurtled out of their control, putting Leeds in real danger of relegation. Before heavy defeats to Manchester United, Liverpool and Spurs in the space of seven days, Leeds also lost to relegation rivals Everton and Newcastle United.

It recently emerged that former USA midfielder Marsch had been sounded out about the job. The 48-year-old is regarded as one of football's more progressive coaches and has come through the Red Bull network founded on similar pressing principles to those used by Bielsa.

After starting out with Montreal Impact, he had spells at Red Bull's New York, Salzburg and Leipzig franchises. Although his most recent and high-profile posting was short-lived, sacked in December 21 games into his maiden season with Leipzig, it has done little to damage his standing within the game.

Such a popular figure on the terraces, Bielsa's exit has inevitably provoked anger towards the club's decision-makers but they were clearly wary that the price of relegation from the Premier League is huge, and Leeds's plans to expand their stadium hang on them consolidating their place in it. The San Francisco 49ers having a growing shareholding and therefore influence on the club and their feelings will have been considered as well as those of Radrizzani.

For Leeds to have initially attracted Bielsa as their manager in the summer of 2018 was a huge coup given his worldwide reputation. He has inspired a host of top managers such as Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino with a thrilling brand of football which won more plaudits than silverware.

He was given great autonomy at Leeds, and played a big role in updating the infrastructure of the Thorp Arch training ground, as well as imposing a unique, physically-demanding and hugely entertaining style of play on the club's junior teams.

Director of football spoke of how "Marcelo had a huge impact on the club, on a scale I have not seen before," drawing attention to "a clear pathway for young players to transition into the first team."

The love he was shown by fans was reciprocated in his dedication to the club he served longer than any other in a nomadic coaching career. Despite offending English footballing sensibilities and breaking its rules when Leeds were caught spying on a Derby County training session in January 2019, Bielsa was by and large an extremely principled manager who would always try to give a fair assessment of matches and referees, and who called on numerous occasions for those within the game to be paid less to allow for fewer matches of a higher quality.

The club humoured his habit of only agreeing one-year contracts which tended only to be extended deep into pre-season after lengthy negotiations but there were signs in recent weeks that their patience was just eroding slightly and they were testing the water to move on in the summer as ultimately many of the strengths behind his success at Leeds also proved to be weaknesses.

Leeds's next game is on Saturday lunchtime, at Leicester City.