Marseille’s acquisition of former Argentina, Chile and Athletic Bilbao manager Marcelo Bielsa may prove a masterstroke given the esteem in which football’s most admired coaches hold him.
Josep Guardiola, Gerardo Martino, Mauricio Pochettino and Diego Simeone are among the managers making waves in the game who have acknowledged a tactical debt to the Argentine.
Bielsa himself may not be present at the 2014 World Cup, but his influence will be all pervasive, with no side more steeped in his philosophies than defending champions Spain.
The modus operandi made famous by Guardiola’s Barcelona and harnessed to devastating effect by Vicente del Bosque’s La Roja, 13/2 fourth favourites for triumph in the land of samba, owes much to the man whose hand will be on the L’OM tiller next season.
Energetic pressing high up the pitch and an approach that prioritises monopolisation of possession are both hallmarks of Barcelona and Spain that are influenced by the Argentine’s thinking.
Guardiola’s first meeting with the manager he called ‘the best coach in the world today’ as recently as 2012 is reported to have lasted for a mind-boggling 11 hours.
Another paid-up member of the ‘Loco’ fan club is the man who inherited his Chile side, via a year-long stint under the command of Claudio Borghi, Jorge Sampaoli.
During Bielsa’s tenure he drastically improved the fortunes of a national side that finished tenth in 2006 CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, to the extent that they finished second in the same section four years later.
He also pioneered a revolutionary use of a 3-3-1-3 formation that enabled Sampaoli to hold to Spain to a draw on home turf in September 2013.
It’s highly likely that a tactically fluid Chile side will move through this permutation at times during their Group B contests in Brazil, whom they held to a 2-2 draw and a narrow 2-1 defeat in meetings last year.
It’s an exciting formation that combines the potential for domination in the middle of the pitch with a dizzying degree of width courtesy of wing-backs (in the second three) and wingers, who can create two-on-one opportunities down the flanks.