The man in the opposite dugout to David Moyes at Leeds United on Friday night could quite easily have been taking charge of West Ham United instead.

Pressure piles on West Ham striker Haller after honest statement from Leeds boss Bielsa

When Slaven Bilic was appointed following the departure of Sam Allardyce five years ago, he was not the only man in the running.

Co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold were torn between the Croatian and then Marseille boss Marcelo Bielsa, as reported by Sky Sports at the time.

Bielsa reportedly wanted the West Ham job and was refusing to sign new deal in France as a result, according to The Mirror.

Leeds United v Manchester City - Premier League
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West Ham owners snubbed Bielsa for Bilic but signed Payet on Leeds boss’s advice

Sullivan and Gold elected not to appoint Bielsa and went with Bilic. The rest, as they say, is history.

Bielsea ended up at Leeds a couple of years later. And he lead them back to the Premier League where they have entertained with their swashbuckling high energy style of play which leads to plenty of goals – at both ends.

Some good came from the Argentine’s West Ham interview. His name was Dimitri Payet.

Sullivan once told The Mail that the unconventional Leeds boss played a role in convincing the club to sign Payet.

It shows how close Bielsa came to landing the Hammers hotseat that the club had even discussed potential signings with the Argentine.

West Ham United Training Session
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West Ham have had four managerial changes since opting against Bielsa

Sullivan said: “We were talking to the then Marseille manager Marcelo Bielsa about coming to West Ham and we said: ‘Who is the one player you would bring?’ He said Payet.”

Sullivan explained that at that point Payet was already on West Ham’s radar, but Bielsa’s declaration only served to confirm their view that he was an essential buy.

And so it proved as the French magician inspired West Ham during 18 unforgettable months before going AWOL to force a return to France.

West Ham have employed Bilic and twice appointed David Moyes either side of Manuel Pellegrini since snubbing Bielsa.

Many West Ham fans believed that was a mistake.

Others felt Bielsa’s maverick style – which has often courted controversy – would have been a recipe for disaster under Sullivan and Gold.

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Has maverick Leeds boss just showed why Sullivan and Gold were wary of appointing him?

And Bielsa may have just showed exactly why the West Ham owners decided against bringing him to east London.


In the past Bielsa has grabbed headlines with his tactics and behaviour. From playing four strikers in matches to walking out on Lazio 48 hours after being appointed.

The spying saga in the Championship became a major talking point for which Bielsa was forced to publicly apologise too.

Now the Leeds boss has taken the unusual step of naming his team 48 hours before the match against West Ham.

Team selection is usually a closely guarded secret at clubs until the sheets go in an hour before kick off.

So giving West Ham a full two days to prepare knowing their exact opposition could be deemed a big advantage.

The Mirror described Bielsa’s actions as highly unusual.

The Leeds boss said he chose not to “keep West Ham guessing” as he named his starting XI.

Leeds are dealing with a defensive injury crisis. Naming the team this early could be seen as Bielsa’s way of telling the club’s owners he needs more players.

It may also be seen as an attempt to shift pressure to Moyes who will be criticised if West Ham fail to get anything from a game where he knew a significantly weakened opponent’s starting XI days before playing them.

Whatever Bielsa’s thinking is behind his decision, it is exactly that kind of behaviour that probably scared Sullivan and Gold off in the first place.

But it certainly would have been a fun ride for the fans, as Leeds supporters will testify.

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