IAN LADYMAN: Leeds United’s future looks bright with or WITHOUT Marcelo Bielsa

0

Pep Guardiola made seven changes to his squad on Saturday, which made sense given a tough Champions League return leg at Borussia Dortmund this week.

That is why Manchester City did not lose to Leeds at home anyway. Leeds under Marcelo Bielsa can beat good sides.

They remain one of the more fascinating stories of the Premier League season. Just as interesting could be what happens to the club afterwards.

Leeds shocked Manchester City on Saturday to continue an exciting return to the top flight

Leeds shocked Manchester City on Saturday to continue an exciting return to the top flight

Marcelo Bielsa has worked wonders in Leeds, but their future looks bright without him

Marcelo Bielsa has worked wonders in Leeds, but their future looks bright without him

Marcelo Bielsa has worked wonders in Leeds, but their future looks bright without him

Leeds right now is all about Bielsa, but they are also a club that looks ambitiously at what lies ahead.

Largely under the radar, news flew earlier this year that the American NFL franchise paid the San Francisco 49ers £ 50 million to increase their stake in Leeds to 37 percent. At the same time, one of the key figures of the 49ers, Paraag Marathe, was appointed vice-chairman of the Elland Road administration.

For two decades with the 49ers, Marathe was responsible for both the acquisition of players and the move seven years ago to the rather fantastic Levi’s Stadium, where a Super Bowl already took place.

Leeds will be led by majority shareholder Andrea Radrizzani, who has already achieved a lot at the club. The Italian has made Leeds the owner of its own land again.

Elland Road is crying out for development, which seems to be coming from US support

Elland Road is crying out for development, which seems to be coming from US support

Elland Road is crying out for development, which seems to be coming from US support

But it would be a surprise if someone with Marathe’s backstory has come alone to shuffle the papers.

“Leeds today reminds me of the 49ers 15 years ago,” Marathe told ESPN in a recent interview.

Both teams have a large fan base and history. The 49ers had such a great success in the 80s and 90s, just like Leeds in the 70s, and both had a bit of a rough time on and off the field.

The 49ers played in the oldest non-renovated stadium in the NFL. So we’ve built a new stadium, which has completely transformed our franchise, and it’s the same thing we want to do here in Leeds.

‘We have the right people, the expertise and the blueprint.’

Paraag Marathe has been appointed to the Leeds board with the aim of moving the club forward

Paraag Marathe has been appointed to the Leeds board with the aim of moving the club forward

Paraag Marathe has been appointed to the Leeds board with the aim of moving the club forward

Take some of the jargon out of that and you’ve got the bones of it. The Americans have seen the clear potential that lies in Leeds. Elland Road may be shady, but it is iconic and calls for development on the land. The fan base remains large and hungry.

The Premier League football platform is secure after a freshman year back in the top division for 16 years. If a modern English football club seems ripe for development in a new era, it is this one.

Bielsa has always been a great force at Leeds. No one will forget what he has done, neither the progress made, nor the football played.

Likewise, Leeds cannot afford to be characterized by him alone.

The great Argentinian is only on contract until the end of this season and while eager to sign a new deal, he’s 65 and won’t be around forever.

The Yorkshire club laid the foundation for bringing back the club's success after years of pain

The Yorkshire club laid the foundation for bringing back the club's success after years of pain

The Yorkshire club laid the foundation for bringing back the club’s success after years of pain

Leeds must profile itself as a club that can thrive with or without a coach. With this in mind, Leeds supporters must hope that Marathe remains true to his word.

It took a leap of faith to invest in football during a global pandemic, at a time of zero ticket revenues and such uncertainty.

But all you have to do is drive into Leeds from the southwest to see for yourself what that investment entails.

Elland Road stands as a gateway to the city. Likewise, it cries out for a little love.

It will be interesting to see if the US money and expertise can do what history suggests.

Replacing the walker should be a hit

Amid a deluge of rival offerings, the BBC’s Football Focus has remained relevant for the past decade, thanks in large part to the excellent work of host Dan Walker.

Now Walker is saying goodbye and the company must make a huge decision. My three candidates to replace him would be (in no particular order) Mark Pougatch, Kelly Cates and Gabby Logan.

De Beeb cannot afford to make this mistake.

Kelly Cates could be a front runner to take over from Dan Walker on the BBC Football Focus

Kelly Cates could be a front runner to take over from Dan Walker on the BBC Football Focus

Kelly Cates could be a front runner to take over from Dan Walker on the BBC Football Focus

Football clubs addicted to social media

So finally clubs have realized that they have a choice regarding their involvement in the darkness that is social media.

Birmingham, Swansea and Rangers have all indicated that they will be moving away from online platforms for a week to expose player abuse issues.

Premier League managers have also spoken eloquently on the matter. Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp stated at his weekly press conference that his advice to his players would be to shut down from Twitter, Instagram and the like.

But between Klopp speaking over lunch last Friday and midnight the next day, the official Liverpool Twitter account posted 57 times. That’s the norm for big clubs and this is part of the problem.

Football is way too deep with social media and the step between here and common sense feels too big.

Will Barton ever learn to shut up?

Joey Barton has had a more than creditable job at Fleetwood Town during his first managerial position and now works at Bristol Rovers.

The former Manchester City player has a strong work ethic and a deep knowledge of the game. Somewhere a decent football manager is waiting to emerge.

Still, it looks like the 38-year-old will all too often make things difficult for himself.

Joey Barton has done more than creditable work in his first managerial job and is now at Bristol Rovers

Joey Barton has done more than creditable work in his first managerial job and is now at Bristol Rovers

Joey Barton has done more than creditable work in his first managerial job and is now at Bristol Rovers

Barton said two weeks ago that his predecessors at the club – Paul Tisdale and Ben Garner – were “negligent” in the way they trained the Rovers players.

Barton may or may not have had a point, but he’s now in the track for 13 games and has won only three times.

Rovers are in League One’s relegation places and that’s up to him. There is a time to criticize other people and it is not now.