Think about it, Marcelo Bielsa on the sidelines of an MLS club. It almost happened and it was before the 2017 season. The Argentine coach was almost ready to move his family to the United States after a five-hour meeting with the MLS team’s leaders, but the call to finalize the deal never took place.
Marcelo Bielsa is not your everyday coach, he is extremely obsessed with tactics, and repetitions, and his training sessions could last hours. Bielsa has also only taken jobs in which he believes he can truly leave his stamp on a club, turning down million dollar offers to coach teams in Mexico, Italy, and various national teams.
Before Atlanta United’s first season, Bielsa and the club heads Carlos Bocanegra and Darren Eales met in Marseilles, France in 2015 to discuss the possibility of Bielsa coaching the team in its inaugural season. According to The Athletic, the meeting was around five hours long, where Bielsa detailed his plan for the team and later on the Argentine head coach never received a phone call about the team’s final decision.
Marcelo Bielsa almost coached Atlanta United
According to The Athletic article, Bielsa’s time at Marseille was running down and the Argentine was looking for a new challenge and the possibility of coaching in MLS and building a team from the ground up appealed to Bielsa.
The deal to have Bielsa become the coach of Atlanta United was almost brought to the finish line but two key factors played a part in Bielsa not becoming the coach of the five stripes. The first was Bielsa wanted total control over all the soccer decisions at the club. Something Bocanegra was hesitant about. That control consisted of all player signings and year end evaluations.
While Atlanta United wanted a high-profile coach for their first season, the process of player signings and TAM and GAM funds in MLS is a complex world and the club believed whoever the overseas candidate that would take over would need help.
The second factor and notably most shocking was after the long meeting and understanding that the decision to hire the team’s first coach was a big one, one that needed the approval of Arthur Blank, Atlanta United’s owner, Bocanegra would advise Bielsa of the final decision. He did not, and this infuriated Bielsa, and he sent word to the MLS club to never again contact him.
Bielsa is known as a man who examines every aspect of a club and while he knew that it was not a 100% done deal to coach the five stripes, he is known for taking value in courtesy calls and proper management. Fans on social media have been hard on Bocanegra, shocked the club did not do the proper research and possibly lost the chance that Bielsa would ever coach the team altogether.
The Athletic article was not kind to Carlos Bocanegra, as it highlighted his issues with the teams eventual first coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, where Martino banned Bocanegra from team meetings and training, all while the club won the 2018 MLS Cup and became a model franchise in MLS.
For Bielsa, today the Argentine is the coach of Leeds United and his Leeds team is a world sensation, despite being 10th in the Premier League, Leeds has displayed a style of soccer that is envied across the world.