Bielsa sacked by Leeds amid relegation battle

Marcelo Bielsa has been sacked by Leeds United, it was confirmed, and sources have told ESPN that former United States midfielder Jesse Marsch is the leading contender to succeed him.

Leeds suffered a torrid week, first suffering a 6-0 defeat away to Liverpool on Wednesday before enduring a 4-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur at home on Saturday in what turned out to be Bielsa’s final match.

Marsch left Bundesliga side RB Leipzig by mutual consent in December, five months after taking charge, and sources said he is the No.1 candidate for the vacancy at Elland Road.

He previously won two Austrian league titles at FC Salzburg. The 48-year-old began his managerial career at Montreal Impact in 2011 and also managed New York Red Bulls. Ralf Rangnick, now Manchester United’s interim manager, employed Marsch as his assistant during his time at Leipzig.

Leeds United chairman Andrea Radrizzani said on Bielsa’s exit: “This has been the toughest decision I have had to make during my tenure at Leeds United, taking into account all the success Marcelo has had at the club.

“With Marcelo as our head coach, we had three incredible campaigns and the good times returned to Elland Road. He changed the culture of the club and brought a winning mentality to us all. The moments created, particularly in the 2019/20 season and winning promotion to the Premier League, will of course live long in all our memories, myself and the fans included.

“However, I have to act in the best interest of the club and I believe a change is required now in order to secure our Premier League status. Recent results and performances have not met our expectations.

“We find ourselves in a precarious league position and I feel now is the right time to bring in a new head coach, in order to have an impact in the decisive stage of the season.”

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Bielsa, 66, joined Leeds in 2018, guiding the club back to the Premier League by winning the Championship in 2020, ending the club’s 16-year absence from England’s top-flight.

Leeds finished ninth in their first campaign back in the Premier League, but a difficult second season, which has seen the side lose five of their last six games, spelled the end of Bielsa’s reign at Elland Road. Bielsa oversaw a run of four straight league defeats, conceding 17 goals, with Leeds two points ahead of third-bottom Burnley having played two games more.

Director of football Victor Orta added: “Since arriving at Leeds United Marcelo had a huge impact on the club, on a scale I have not seen before.

“He has created a legacy, overseeing major infrastructure improvements at Thorp Arch, uniting the supporters and the players, and giving a clear pathway for young players to transition into the first team.

“It is disappointing his reign has had to end in this manner, given the special times we have enjoyed in recent years, which have been some of the best in my career, but we cannot hide from recent results.

“I would like to thank Marcelo for his commitment and dedication, and I wish him every success going forwards.”

The club added that plans for a permanent tribute to Bielsa at Elland Road are under way and more information will be released in due course.

Information from ESPN’s Tom Hamilton was used in this report.

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