“Marcelo Bielsa sees a lot of crazy things that other people don’t. The first day he came in he referred to me as a number four and I’d never played in a defensive midfield role. But I’ve never enjoyed football as much in my life.”
The words of Kalvin Phillips; Championship also-ran to Premier League star, England international and European Championship finalist in the space of just three years.
“He’s been a major part of my career. A major part of my life. In the last two years or so he has improved me as a person and a footballer,” adds the Leeds United star, their very own ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’.
“I believe that, if he was never introduced to me, then I don’t think I’d be in this position. He’s different in the way that he works. He doesn’t get too close to his players. He is just very football orientated.”
Phillips is not the only member of this Leeds United squad who credits one of football’s sharpest minds for transforming them into players capable of going toe-to-toe with Liverpool and Chelsea, players capable of triumphing at Manchester City’s hallowed Etihad Stadium soil.
Stuart Dallas, Luke Ayling and Liam Cooper were little more than second-tier, second-rate performers before the former Argentina, Marseille and Athletic Bilbao coach Bielsa replaced one-time Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom in 2018.
Don’t be surprised if Daniel James, all speed and little haste at Manchester United, finally makes good on his vast potential at Elland Road.
Should Liverpool have let Curtis Jones join Leeds?
A penny for Curtis Jones’ thoughts, then, with Goal reporting that Liverpool rejected an enquiry from Victor Orta, Leeds’ popular director of football, to sign the 20-year-old Scouser on loan for the season.
The England U21 international hasn’t played a single minute in Liverpool’s first three Premier League fixtures – left out of the squad against both Chelsea and Norwich City.
While Jurgen Klopp may be a firm believer in Jones’ ‘exceptional’ talents, finding a place for him the Reds midfield – particularly given the rapid rise of teenage whizzkid Harvey Elliott – may be easier said than done.
10 months under the intense gaze of Bielsa – and a season of regular top-flight starts – might have been the making of Jones, as it was for Phillips, Harrison, Ayling and more.