When Marcelo Bielsa joined Lille OSC back in February 2017, he was hailed as the man to kick-start the Lille revolution – the man who would herald new beginnings under the ownership of Gerard Lopez. A year on, the French club is facing down the barrel of a gun, aimed at them by the very man who came to France tasked with taking them back to the top; Marcelo Bielsa.
Having been suspended and then sacked prior to Christmas, following an unauthorised trip to visit a dying friend in Chile, the Argentine is now suing the club for £16million. L’Equipe report he is demanding £12m for the remainder of his contract, which was due to expire in June 2019 — and, another £4m for damages. If Bielsa is successful in his claim, Lille face the possibility of administration. This would then be closely followed by demotion and a bleak future would beckon.
Still, such commotion had surrounded his arrival. Many hoped his Lille spell would revive the Bielsista myth. El Loco, as named for his erratic behaviour, had been charged with making Stade Pierre-Mauroy the new place to be for young, promising talent. To help achieve this, they also brought in former Barcelona vice president, Marc Ingla and Monaco technical director Luis Campos.
Bielsa is arguably the biggest influencer in modern day coaching. Pep Guardiola names him as the ‘best coach in the world’ whilst Mauricio Pochettino calls him his ‘football father’. He is renowned for previous spells as Argentina (1998-2004), Chile (2007-11) and Athletic Bilbao (2011-13) manager. Of late, nevertheless, whether it be Marseille, Lazio or now Lille, chaos quickly followed his trail.
Yet the sacking at Lille was his first for a while. Having resigned under clouds of confusion at the three previously mentioned clubs, this sacking burned him – and, could explain the effort he is going to in suing the club.
And despite the trip to visit his dying friend in Chile, there’s no hiding that Bielsa was already struggling at Lille. He was sacked on the back of nine games without a win, having produced the mere three goals. The Lille hierarchy had reason to get rid, which makes suing for unfair dismissal even more remarkable.
Double winners back in 2011, Lille now sit in a lowly 18th position. Sacking Bielsa was proof that Gerard Lopez’s project had failed at the first hurdle. Placing such emphasis on Bielsa’s already flailing powers was clearly a mistake. However, with El Loco now on the rampage and bent on revenge, they may come to regret his sacking.