Brendan Rodgers: Bielsa consoled me after Leicester blew top four spot

Brendan Rodgers admits Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa consoled him the day after Leicester blew a top four spot on the final day of last season… as Whites boss claims Foxes manager is ‘better than I was when I was his age’

  • Brendan Rodgers takes his Leicester side to Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds on Sunday
  • The Foxes boss says Bielsa consoled him after his side blew top four last term
  • Bielsa came to Leicester’s training ground after the final day of last season
  • Rodgers’ Leicester side had just lost to Tottenham to slip down to fifth place 

It was the morning after the final game of the season and, for Brendan Rodgers, it had happened again.

Another campaign spent inside the top four, longer than any other side, only for Champions League qualification to slip through Leicester City’s fingers once more.

A home defeat to Tottenham when a win would have done it. And they had led twice.

Brendan Rodgers revealed Marcelo Bielsa helped him after Leicester blew a top four spot

The Foxes lost to Spurs on the final day of last season with Rodgers feeling ‘numb’ afterwards

It’s no wonder Rogers felt numb. His side had blown it again. He needed a holiday, it was time to get away. But first he had a visitor: Marcelo Bielsa.

The two managers face each other this afternoon, with both sides enduring a mixed start to the Premier League season.

They had planned before Rodgers’ final-day disappointment to meet at Leicester’s training ground. The two talked about football. What else would two tactical obsessives talk about.

At times, Bielsa spoke in English via his interpreter, at others Rodgers conversed in Spanish, a language he studied for six years earlier in his career. By the end of it, Bielsa had given Rodgers some perspective.

Leeds boss Bielsa (above) came into Leicester and Rodgers’ training facilities in the summer

‘It has a real numbing effect on me, not qualifying for the Champions League,’ says Rodgers. ‘I spent a couple of hours with him and it was a breath of fresh air. He’s a great man.

‘He arranged to come in, take a look at our facilities and speak about football. It felt good. I came out of the conversation having lost the day before and before I went on holiday it was really great to chat to him. I had a great morning with him.’

There are few managers in the world who would not list Bielsa’s name as an inspiration. Pep Guardiola has. So, too, Mauricio Pochettino, who played under Bielsa at Newell’s Old Boys and Espanyol.

Rodgers is no different. ‘I’ve followed his career from the days he was in Argentina,’ he says. ‘I’ve seen lots of sessions of his. He has an unswerving commitment as to how he wants to play. That takes a lot of courage in this game at times.

Rodgers (left) and Bielsa will meet on Sunday as Leciester travel to Leeds and Elland Road

‘You’ll have heard it yourselves, that they are too open. But his commitment, he has an inherent belief in it. But he has values as a person. When you speak and listen to him — he’s had a fantastic career. He’s hugely influential in his methods. You see his enthusiasm. He loves football and that really shines through.’

Those feelings are mutual. Bielsa is 66 now, Rodgers 48. At that age, Bielsa was just shy of leading Argentina, the country of his birth, to Olympic gold having won three league titles in his native homeland.

Bielsa thinks Rodgers is better than he was at this point in his career. Rodgers, meanwhile, has led Leicester to their first FA Cup, back-to-back fifth-placed Premier League finishes as well as two Scottish titles, two Scottish Cups and three Scottish League Cups with Celtic.

‘I think that Rodgers right now is better than I was when I was his age,’ says Bielsa. ‘Back then, I was in control of a lot less things than he is at the moment. When I was his age, there were just three of us surrounding the whole team.

Whites manager Bielsa (second left) admits that Rodgers is ‘better than I was at his age’

‘Now as a manager, above the group of players you also have to manage 25 other people to be able to take the team forward. To be able to do what Rodgers does today, you have to be very capable.’

While Bielsa has never won the trophies to match the adulation his coaching receives from his peers, his influence has spread throughout the top managers of the modern game. Rodgers, too, hopes to be remembered in a similar light.

‘My top priority has always been about teaching and coaching players to be the best they can be, developing those players,’ he says.

‘Hopefully, when I’ve finished I’ll be looked upon as someone who developed players and exciting teams that played attacking football. And if I’ve been lucky enough to have won a few trophies along the way, so be it.’

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