Marcelo Bielsa’s message appears to be lost in translation at Leeds United

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa.
Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa.
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Marcelo Bielsa is growing sick and tired of having to explain himself again and again, but the message is just not getting through.

Every time Bielsa names a Leeds United team, he makes a statement. Saturday’s will be another show of support for under-pressure goalkeeper Kiko Casilla. Despite a string of errors Bielsa believes has undermined media confidence in him, the Spanish goalkeeper will start at home to Bristol City.

But we live in an age where decisions are no longer simply handed down without being questioned, even when they come from someone with Bielsa’s pedigree. The insatiable appetite for all things Leeds means supporters do not just want to know what decisions the Argentinian master is making, but why.

If the experienced Casilla “continues giving the right answer in every situation,” Bielsa finds it more tricky. The fluency with which so many foreign players and managers speak English can almost make you forget how difficult it must be. Bielsa has to rely on a translator – not a professional, a coach pushed into the role.

As a result, when Bielsa tries to share his virtually unmatched knowledge of the game with fans via the media, he sometimes struggles to properly communicate it.

Take yesterday’s Press conference, for example. He was asked about the importance of a confident goalkeeper to his team’s style of play, but by the time it had been jumbled up and sent back, the answer addressed a different question, one he had answered not only earlier that day, but repeatedly recently, about whether Casilla should stay in the team.

Bielsa was understandably irritated to be asked it again – or so he thought.

Even so, his reply gave an insight into a man football lovers find fascinating.

Bielsa claims even in his native Argentina, his explanations are often rejected and that he is treated like “a man selling smoke”, a conman. No wonder he is reluctant to open up to an English media he has accused of poking fun at him.

It is, though, a concern. If the coach cannot make his point through the media, how much is lost passing his ideas onto his players? When the margins are so fine at the top of the Championship, tiny details matter.

So does trust. Bielsa’s “family” is built on it.

“It’s not just about if we have another player in his position,” he insists. “We have this player in (Illan) Meslier. I haven’t seen a young player like him, with those skills, for a long time and he showed this against Arsenal.

“I don’t ignore the mistakes Kiko made. It’s also true that the consequences are linked with the results but I place a lot of importance on the fact that in the same match where Kiko made mistakes and in the next ones, he kept confidence in himself.

“Other keepers, when they make a mistake, in the next situation they don’t come off their line; when they give a bad pass, they start to play long; when they make mistakes, they lose the confidence of their team-mates. You have team-mates who when they realise a keeper’s made a mistake, they don’t give him the ball.

“Kiko has kept confidence in himself and the confidence of his team-mates. Of course he has lost the confidence of the media, we know that.”

Dropping Casilla now would undermine the whole family, according to Bielsa.

“Sometimes when you offer support to one of the players in our ‘family’ – and by that I mean our football club, we know it’s not a family even though we do everything to do that – it’s like insurance to the rest of the players when they have a bad moment,” he argues.

“There are a lot of opinions around our team that we need psychological support. I think the opposite.

“It’s not that I ignore the psychology. When someone is in a bad moment we need to try to block this unsafe feeling and try to give him confidence to help him.

“If a player makes a mistake and it’s punished, the team-mate who doesn’t make the mistake has two possibilities: he might feel freer because he hasn’t made the same mistake as his ‘brother’, or he improves his own skills because he knows that, like the parents support the brother who makes the mistakes, so he will receive the support of his parents (Bielsa).

“I am a very rejected person in my country.

“Every time I explain, in Argentina they say I sell smoke, that is why I am so ashamed to explain what I feel.

“I fear that what I explain will only serve to confirm that I sell smoke. There is only way to avoid this: win every match.

“You only receive support if you win and that’s why managers are generally alone.”

If Bielsa is ashamed to share with supporters his undoubted genius, we are all the poorer for it. If – and it is an if – he is unable to fully pass it onto his players, that is a much bigger problem.