In one of the most surprising moves of the summer, Leeds United have appointed one of their highest-profile managers in history, announcing that Marcelo Bielsa has signed a two-year contract.
The Argentine said it was “impossible to turn down” a club with Leeds’ history and he embarks on a mission to deliver promotion to the Premier League after a hiatus now extended to 14 years.
Held in high esteem by Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino – with his compatriot previously branding him his “football father” – there’s scope for Bielsa to raid his friend’s club for quality loan signings.
One of those is Argentine centre back Juan Foyth.
Foyth made just eight appearances in all competitions – totalling 720 minutes – for the Lilywhites in his debut season and with Spurs in the market for a new centre back, his chances of first team football are likely to remain limited.
Hence, a loan seems to benefit all involved.
Fitting the system
Given Pochettino’s admission that his own coaching style derives from Bielsa – the 46-year-old described himself as Bielsa’s “disciple” – it makes sense that Foyth should be sent on loan to Elland Road.
The 20-year-old was signed from Estudiantes as a ball-playing centre back and one of his biggest strengths is his comfort on the ball, demonstrated by the fact that he recorded a 91.6% passing accuracy in his one Champions League appearances in 2017/18.
Ball-playing centre backs are ever-present features of Bielsa’s teams and the likes of Aymeric Laporte – signed by Manchester City for £60 million in January – have credited him as an important figure in his development whilst at Athletic Bilbao.
Bielsa could have an important influence on Foyth’s game, therefore, aiding in his transition to the rigours of English football.
Furthermore, Bielsa’s systems, similar to Pochettino’s, rely on teamwork, coherency and aggressive pressing, three aspects that will serve Foyth well on his return to Tottenham, should he make the move to Leeds for the 2018/19 season.
Pochettino is highly protective over his young prospects and wants them to receive the best education possible, and Bielsa’s lack of longevity may yet hinder a possible deal.
The 62-year-old has never spent longer than two seasons at a club, with his last three jobs – Marseille, Lazio and Lille – all lasting a season or less. At Lazio, particularly, he quit after just two days on the job.
Bielsa himself has never managed in England and may prove incapable of adapting to the English game, made worse given the short-term nature of managers in the Championship trying to achieve promotion.
As such, Pochettino could be reluctant to let Foyth leave on loan if he ends up falling into the wrong hands, which may stall his development.
The Spurs boss, moreover, is an keen admirer of Foyth’s and with interest cooling in Ajax centre back Matthijs de Ligt, whilst Toby Alderweireld is still set to leave, this could see the 20-year-old given more responsibility in north London.
Pochettino has long been a believer that players he sees as future first teamers are best served remaining under his guidance. Coupled with Bielsa’s short-termism, this could inhibit a deal between Foyth and Leeds.
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