Mercurial Argentine Bielsa keeps them waiting in Lille

Marcelo Bielsa

June 20 – The French football revolution being engineered at Lille looks to have lost focus. New coach Marcelo Bielsa didn’t up show up for his first training session at the club as it seeks to rebuild after struggling in previous seasons in Ligue 1.

Lille have burned through managers in recent seasons, including the well respected Herve Renard, after a unique league and cup double in 2011. Film producer and businessman Michel Seydoux took the club from the dilapidated Stade Grimonprez-Jooris to the state-of-the-art Stade Pierre-Mauroy as they progressed from Ligue 2. Lille also built a modern new training complex and achieved financial security.

But Seydoux sold the club to Gérard Lopez. Under the new owner Marcelo Bielsa has been brought in to restore Lille to the top of French football and give the club a renewed identity. The famed Argentinean is renowned for his attacking play and mercurial style.

Bielsa endeared himself to French football fans when he coached at Marseille in 2014, but a return to the south of France never materialised. However, he hasn’t arrived in Lille either, citing “personal reasons” for his absence.

He has a track record of leaving clubs at the last minute. In 1998, he left Espanyol after a brief period in Barcelona, in order to become the manager of the Argentine national team. More recently, he left Lazio a few days after joining the Italian club upon learning that the club were not going to sign the players he wanted.

His absence has caused the alarm to go off in Lille. Bielsa has a good relationship with owner Lopez and new general manager Marc Ingla, but it seems they will still have to wait for their coaching guru to turn up.

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