On This Day

On This Day: That Bielsa Press Conference


Today, January 16th, marks four years since Marcelo Bielsa delivered a press conference for the ages following the infamous and disproportionate spygate incident.

Comparing Leeds in January 2023 to January 2019 is difficult. A lot has changed – with the exception of ever-present defensive errors and the absence of a nailed on starter in the left back position. But we’ll take a look back on the notorious press conference that nobody had on their 2019 bingo card.

Leeds were about half a year into the Bielsa era. We had an identity for the first time in nearly two decades, and things were looking good.

Following on from allegations that Leeds had sent a staff member to “spy” on Derby County’s training sessions ahead of a clash with at Elland Road, Leeds outclassed the Rams in a 2-0 display with goals from Jack Harrison and Kemar Roofe.

We’d hoped the victory would be the end of the spygate saga, but five days later Leeds fans were glued to their phones waiting to see what would come from an impromptu press conference called by the club and former boss Bielsa.

False reports began to circulate that the Argentine would be stepping down from his position, sparking outrage and uncertainty among the Leeds United faithful. But those reports would amount to nothing more than clickbait written by clueless “journalists”.

Instead, Leeds fans (and the entire footballing world) were given a hugely in-depth insight into El Loco’s preparation and beyond-granular analysis of every footballing aspect imaginable.

Bielsa accepted responsibility for sending an intern to observe Derby’s training, and admitted that this had been ongoing with opposition throughout the season. He explained that with the detailed analysis his team conducted ahead of each game, the training observations were meaningless as he already had any relative information to base footballing decisions around.


In the eyes of Leeds fans, Bielsa vindicated himself from any wrongdoing and in the process, blew the minds of many in the sporting world. In his impromptu 70-minute addressing of the incident, Bielsa had shown more in his masterclass than most would have ever seen before. We were well-aware that he had a great understanding of his team, the opposition and the game as a whole, but we didn’t know the work that was going on behind the scenes to make everything happen.

In an episode of his podcast, Leeds reporter Phil Hay did raise the point that the decision to give such a press conference may have been a factor in the FA’s decision to investigate Leeds and Bielsa for the ‘spying’ accusations, as it drew further attention to the matter. The outcome of the investigation was a £200,000 fine for Leeds, which Bielsa reportedly paid out of his own pocket [via ThisIsFutbol].

Whether or not the press conference was a factor in the culminating fine, there’s no doubt that this press conference will continue to live in the memory of Leeds fans. Its arguably more memorable than the initial espionage incident itself, which is a nice way of reflecting on it.

Bielsa will forever be a legend at Leeds, bringing the club back to the Premier League and taking a lower-mid table Championship side from obscurity to greatness in a remarkably short amount of time – and the press conference is just one of many memorable days from his tenure as Leeds boss.

Share this article