Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City fans could have Gabriel Batistuta to thank for the football they have watched during Pep Guardiola’s respective reigns.”If you want to be a coach you have to get together with this guy” Batistuta told his then Roma teammate Pep Guardiola.
The guy in question was Marcelo Bielsa and the rest was history. Bielsa has set the benchmark for a number of coaches and here are three of his most famous disciples.
Guardiola loves Bielsa
Guardiola travelled to Argentina in 2006 to set a meeting up with the current Leeds United manager, who is nicknamed El Loco for his crazy methods, and it was to be a meeting of footballing minds which would put Pep on to the path of greatness.
Guardiola won three La Liga titles with Barcelona as well as two Champions League titles and a couple of Club World Cups before moving to Bayern Munich where he win three Bundesliga’s, two of which were turned into domestic doubles.
At City he won back-to-back Premier League crowns in 2018 and 2019 and became the first manager ever to land a domestic clean sweep of trophies with a treble last year.
The success has been achieved with a methodical approach to the finer details as well as an attack-minded ideology with the keys being possession and pressing.
Guardiola said of Bielsa: “He is the best coach in the world. My admiration for him is huge because he makes the players much, much better.
“I have not met a former player who speaks no good of Bielsa, they are grateful about his influence on their careers.”
Poch follows his “football father”
Bielsa’s CV lacks major honours – his best achievement was winning the Olympics with Argentina in 2014 – and an absence of silverware is also aimed by some as a problem for Mauricio Pochettino, who is out of work after being sacked by Tottenham in November.
Pochettino got close – he finished second in the Premier League with Spurs and also led them to the final of the Champions League and League Cup – while few could question the fact he seriously improved the north London outfit.
Poch did the same with Espanyol and Southampton, all with a style that would have made Bielsa, his former manager at club and international level, proud.
“He is one of the best managers in the world,” said Pochettino. “He is like my football father – I owe him everything.”
Sampaoli does it better
There can be no doubt Sampaoli brought Bielsa’s football to life with a risky 3-3-1-3 formation with huge success.
He won the Copa America with Chile in 2015 and the 2011 Copa Sudamericana – South America’s equivalent of the Europa League – with Universidad de Chile.
Bielsa said of Sampaoli: “I don’t consider him a disciple because his ideas, which are comparable to mine, are better. He is better than me and I don’t say that with false modesty.”