Bielsa to Bilbao – Is there method to Athletic’s madness?

As Athletic Bilbao’s Presidential election race came to an end this week with former player and club captain Josu Urrutia ousting Fernando Garcia Macua, perhaps the most intriguing aspect came from Marcelo Bielsa’s appointment as Coach.

Whilst heralding a new direction at the very top of the club, Bielsa’s arrival heralds an even more influential change at coaching level, taking over from the successful Joaquin Caparros. For the former Newell’s Old Boys, Velez, Argentina and Chile Coach, it is also a return to club management after 13 years, and a second stint in La Liga.

The first was a brief and albeit unsavoury three-month spell with Espanyol in 1998. After successive titles in his homeland with Newell’s, Bielsa agreed on June 8 to move to the Periquitos. However, just a month into his contract and a week before the season kicked off, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) then approached Bielsa to take charge of Argentina for their 2002 World Cup campaign. However, Espanyol refused to release the Coach amid a disagreement over a clause in his contract – Bielsa believing it allowed him to leave for another team, Espanyol believing it allowed him only to talk to other teams. The Coach’s unexpected refusal to activate the clause without the club’s blessing then forced the AFA and Catalans to reach a compromise.

That was that Bielsa would leave the club at the start of the winter break, but such was the disastrous start to the 1998/99 campaign at the Estadi Ol

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