It’s that time of the season once again — when speculation about Marcelo Bielsa’s future at Elland Road starts to become a real topic of debate in West Yorkshire. The respected Argentine manager, who the likes of Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi claim is one of the best coaches in the world, has been at Leeds United for four seasons now — but never seems to commit to a long-term contract with the club.
With his current deal up at the end of this campaign, now is usually around the time the 66-year-old and the club’s chiefs go into discussions. However, while this is nothing new as far as both parties are concerned, something feels different about the process this time around.
It’s usually the end of the season by the time something is formally announced, but with Leeds largely struggling to find form this year and falling out of favour in the bet exchange, it’s proving increasingly hard to call what conclusion Leeds’ owner Andrea Radrizzani, Director of Football Victor Orta and Bielsa are going to come to in the summer.
With the future of the club well and truly up in the air, as relegation’s a real possibility, Bielsa’s future in doubt and their best players often linked with a move away from Elland Road, let’s take a look at three possible replacements the Leeds hierarchy could be weighing up for the Argentine gaffer.
1. Jesse Marsch
Leeds’ number one target according to several reports, Jesse Marsch is considered one of the most exciting managers in European football at the moment. The 48-year-old made a name for himself at New York Red Bulls, winning the Supporters’ Shield and being named MLS Coach of the Year, both in 2015.
He has since moved up the Red Bull group’s tree, taking the reins at Salzburg — where he won back-to-back Austrian Bundesliga titles and successive Austrian Cups in his two years in charge — before replacing Julian Nagelsmann at Leipzig. Things didn’t work out for Marsch in Germany though, as he departed the Red Bull Arena after just 21 Bundesliga games in charge.
Still, he’ll be a sought-after manager this summer and Leeds will be doing all they can to fight off stiff opposition from clubs all over Europe to lure him to Elland Road should Bielsa say his goodbyes.
2. Ernesto Valverde
Interestingly, Ernesto Valverde is no stranger to coming in and picking up the pieces from a Bielsa regime. The Spaniard replaced the former Lazio boss at Athletic Bilbao in the summer of 2013, taking over a struggling side and performing admirably at San Mamés over the course of the next four years — most notably losing the Copa del Rey final to Barcelona but then beating his future employers 5-1 over the course of two legs in the 2015 Supercopa de España, while he was also named La Liga Coach of the Year in 2015-16.
It was performances like those that landed him in the Nou Camp hotseat in May 2017, and he went on to win two La Liga trophies, the Copa del Rey and another Supercopa during his two and a half seasons in Catalonia. He hasn’t managed since being sacked by Barcelona in January 2022, but he would certainly bring a wealth of experience to the Yorkshire side and would be a fine appointment.
3. Carlos Corberán
With Bielsa’s extreme methods arguably the reason why Leeds returned to the promise land last season after a 16-year absence, it would be no surprise if they are the key things Orta and Radrizzani consider when looking for the Argentine’s potential replacement. That’s where Carlos Corberán comes in. The Spaniard knows the club well having been appointed the under-23 manager in 2017, and he even turned down the head coach role at Cultural Leonesa in 2019 as he wanted to continue working under Bielsa.
Corberán was soon part of the Argentine’s backroom staff, juggling those responsibilities with his U23 duties to help Leeds win the Championship in 2022 and guide them back to the Premier League. However, he jumped at the opportunity to become Huddersfield Town manager that summer and the Elland Road bosses have been impressed by what they have seen thus far. Currently fifth in the second tier, it will be unlikely they get the Spaniard if he gains promotion with their West Yorkshire rivals though!