It didn’t take much effort for Marcelo Bielsa to agree to coach Uruguay. The current group of Celeste players seduced the experienced Argentine coach.
He also enthused by saying that “Uruguay can imagine and has what it takes to feed the imagination” to receive the highest award in world football for the third time.
Bielsa was presented as Uruguay’s new coach on Wednesday, with a message of respect for fans, praise for legend Oscar Tabarez and an action plan for the national team.
During a press conference that lasted an hour and a quarter, the “maniac” maintained the same mood: not looking at anyone but the desk, alert, measured in his words and sporadically splashed with some humor.
The 67-year-old said “they didn’t have to persuade me” to accept the job. “I would almost say it was the complete opposite.”
He cited two major reasons for leading the world champion team in 1930 and 1950.
“There is one player I like in the group who has represented Uruguay in recent years,” he said.
After taking charge of his third South American team, Bielsa finds himself in a top-class squad with players who have stood out in leagues in Europe and the region, such as Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Ronald Araújo ( Barcelona), Darwin Nunez (Liverpool), Rodrigo Bentancur (Tottenham), Jose Maria Jimenez (Atletico Madrid) and Giorgio de Arrasqueta (Flamengo).
At the same time, the historic Luis Suárez (Gremio), Edinson Cavani (Valencia) and Diego Godin (Vélez Sarsfield) are in the twilight of their careers.
Regarding the involvement of that trio of players with four World Cups on the line, Bielsa preferred not to get ahead of himself until “dialogues and contacts are established, listening and listening”.
He said, “I respect statues very much as I respect people very much: they are precious materials for the poor.” “I will not do anything that will harm an idol.”
Another compelling reason that attracted them was the “civilization” of the Uruguayans.
“The stature of the citizen is ultimately the recipient of the players,” he said at the presentation held at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo.
After three months of talks, he agreed to lead the team for a period covering a period of 39 months till the 2026 World Cup.
His recruitment raised an aura of hope after Celeste’s defeat at the World Cup in Qatar, in which the Diego Alonso-led team disappointed by not surviving the first round.
Bielsa appears as a coach capable of managing and raising the game of the Uruguayans.
He was cautious but firm in his objectives.
“In football, affection is achieved by instilling unforgettable memories in the collective memory and is the only way to win,” he said.
Biyesa signed his contract on Monday and went to the High Performance Center of the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) to begin work, reliving the facilities and meeting officials and part of the Uruguayan coaching staff who will assist him.
His debut will come in June when Uruguay face Nicaragua and Cuba on the 14th and 20th respectively during the FIFA dates. World Cup qualifiers begin in early September, against Chile at home and Ecuador as a visitor.
Bielsa led Argentina between 1998 and 2004. His cycle included an elimination in the group stage of the 2002 Korea–Japan World Cup and a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He decided to resign due to personal reasons.
He was also Chile’s coach between 2007 and 2011, reaching the last 16 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
At club level, he has had a career that began in Argentina with Newell’s Old Boys – from his hometown – and Vélez Sarsfield. He also directed in France (Atlas and America), Spain (Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol), France (Olympique de Marseille and Lille), in France.
His final campaign in Europe was with Leeds United, a team he coached out of England’s Second Division. He finished ninth in the 2020–2021 Premier League season, but was fired in the next course. He had been running without direction since February 2022.
Expectations run high for Bielsa among a vast majority of fans, but there has also been criticism for bringing Argentina, the seventh out of 10 South American teams, in charge.
He was presented as one of the best technicians in the world. But according to his humble speech, he asked himself: “How could he be one of the world’s great coaches and not lead one of the 20 most powerful clubs?”
However, hope is hard to shake.
It is “a bright day, with very light blue sky, according to the occasion”, Ignacio Alonso, president of the AUF, enthused at the presentation. “Let’s go Bilsa!” Someone shouted from the street and was heard in the tent where the convention was held at the turn of the century.
Bielsa promised to act in a “style that represents the players”. The way I think about football, I am very attuned to the players I envision building a team with. I assure myself that it will not be such a difficult task.”
In that sense, he said he felt admiration for Tabriz, who led the Celeste between 2006 and 2021. The word compliment should be used sparingly as it sounds hyperbolic, but in this case it matches.”
“You cannot compete or reproduce Tabrez’s legacy. I’ll do what I can, I’ll do my best.”
Apart from facing the qualifiers, Bielsa will also lead the Celeste in the 2024 Paris Olympics.