MARCELO BIELSA is ready to take Leeds back to the top of the charts — by doing it his way.
That is the view of the club’s former title-winning boss Howard Wilkinson, who reckons Bielsa is the Frank Sinatra of the Premier League.
And although the 65-year-old Argentine has not got the voice of Ol’ Blue Eyes, Bielsa does possess the kind of star attraction that sets him apart from the chasing pack.
Wilkinson, who was the boss in 1992 when Leeds last lifted the top-flight title, told SunSport: “I really admire Bielsa because he dares to be different.
“That applies to what he does and how he is as a person. He’s got great belief in what he does and he’s able to get people around him to believe it too.
“I suppose if he was a singer, he would be Frank Sinatra — he does it his way but funnily enough, I don’t think he’ll be prone to feeling too many regrets.
“I like the way he doesn’t give a toss what other people might think or say about him because he knows what’s best for Leeds and he sticks to it.
“But what makes him so different from Sinatra is that he’s clearly not bothered by the trappings of success or the need to impress others. He’s a one-off.”
Wilkinson, now chairman of the League Managers’ Association, saw Bielsa win hearts and minds in west Yorkshire as Leeds stormed to the Championship title last season.
The ex-England caretaker boss, 76, said: “The fans have really taken him to their hearts and that’s surely something that really must mean a lot, even to someone so down to earth.
“There’s never ever a hint of him saying, ‘Look at me, aren’t I great?’ — because he’s a model of modesty and humility.
“To see what he’s all about, just look at his touchline demeanour — the way he crouches, his dress sense but also where he calls home, or even the car he drives.
“That disarming behaviour might be understated but will inspire those around him because it’s simple what-you-see-is-what-you-get, which players respond to.”
Now back in England’s top division for the first time in 16 years, Leeds can look forward to a Premier League opener at champions Liverpool on Saturday.
But Wilkinson believes it is vital the club act to end the uncertainty over Bielsa’s future at Elland Road.
He said: “As a manager, you’ve got to be able to work as if you’re going to be there for the rest of your life.
“That’s why it’s vitally important they secure Bielsa’s services on a long-term basis. If you don’t, you won’t convince the players and the directors of the best way forward to prosper in the Premier League.
“You’ve got to plan for the long term because players engage more with the journey than they do with the job.
“So if they’ve got any sense, the powers-that-be will get Bielsa signed up to a long-term contract sooner rather than later.
“I’m sure they will — because promotion after 16 long years outside the top flight is all the proof you need that they know what they’re doing.”
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Wilkinson believes Leeds should take ‘inspiration’ from Burnley and also Sheffield United, who finished ninth last season after pipping Bielsa’s team to Championship promotion a year earlier.
He said: “Who’d have thought little old Burnley would become an established Premier League side even though it’s a town of just 70,000 people?
“But that’s down to the tremendous job Sean Dyche has done over the years and the faith the club put in him. And who would have thought that Sheffield United would hit the ground running in such an impressive way after promotion?
“That’s down to Chris Wilder, who’s managed more than 1,000 games after starting off in non-league football with Alfreton.
“It’s going to be tougher than ever for Leeds but sometimes you’ve got to win dirty, or scruffily.
“And if the opportunity is there to improve the Leeds squad then they’ve got to grasp it.
“There will be a lot of people who are wondering what all the fuss is about because Leeds have been out of the limelight for so long.
“But Leeds should take heart from the fact that history proves they can live with the very best.
“That said, they’ll need to be at it from the word ‘go’ because they won’t get 20 games to acclimatise in the Premier League.
“The new fixture list sees Bielsa pitting his wits against Klopp at Anfield on the opening day of the season, followed by Pep Guardiola coming to Elland Road.
“And then you’re off to Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Wolves.
“It could be a real baptism of fire. But whatever happens it will be exciting.
“Leeds will have on their side a crowd as raucous as they get. You know you’re in a game at Elland Road because the fans are so partisan.
“Visiting players won’t know what’s hit them when Elland Road is full again because it’s an extraordinary theatre.”
A theatre fit for the Frank Sinatra of football.