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The English Premier League is the self-professed – abetted by Sky Sports – “Greatest league in the world”. While La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga vie for the runner up places in the list, they also face opposition from another British competition in the form of the EFL Championship.
The Championship is considered one of the most competitive leagues in Europe. Twenty-four teams battle it out for the glory of lifting the trophy synonymous with “The old first division” and formerly England’s top flight.
But more than that,winning the Championship offers the gateway to unimaginable riches in the form of promotion to the Premier League. The play-off final which decides the final team to enter the top division is dubbed the most lucrative game in world football.
And while the Premier League is losing some of that gloss because of a prevailing sense of over-commercialisation and over-pricing, the Championship grows in popularity. This is evidenced by the many websites like www.aceodds.com offering attractive sign up bonuses, English Championship football betting promotions, & free bets.”
Multiple relegations followed but could the glory days be returning under charismatic Argentine Marcelo Bielsa? His arrival at Elland Road came out of the blue over the summer following Paul Heckingbottom’s exit. The 63-year-old nicknamed “El Loco” has had a nomadic career with short-live spells at sides in South America and Europe, though he did spend six years in charge of his national side who he guided to the Olympic gold medal in 2004.
No less a figure than Pep Guardiola has hailed Bielsa as a major influence on his career and in 2001 he was voted the IFFHS World’s Best National Coach.
Bielsa is also considered something of a mentor to one of the Premier League’s current trend-setter, Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino (born in a town called Murphy, Argentina) and whom he managed at Newell’s Old Boys.
He is known for undertaking “football projects” rather than opting for the most lucrative offer, which perhaps indicates the reason he has arrived at Elland Road.
It was undoubtedly his time at Bilbao that inspired the burgeoning managerial career of Pep Guardiola.
Journalist and fellow countryman Xabier François previously told Póg Mo Goal that Bielsa preferred to develop an average team like Athletic Bilbao who were “in a sense a full national team since they cannot purchase players that are not Basques.”
“Bielsa was leading effectively a national team in a big money league and he reached two cup finals with the side playing exciting and effective football.
Bielsa shocked Manchester United over two legs to lead Bilbao to the Europa League final before losing out to a Radamel Falcao-inspired Atletico Madrid.
Now his latest venture has Leeds United fans dreaming of a return to the big time. Most observers don’t expect Bielsa to hang around too long – he never does. He has only signed a two-year deal.
But in 2019 Leeds United will mark 100 years since their foundation. Could “Dirty Leeds” be celebrating the milestone back at the top table thanks to the “madman” Bielsa?