It was the morning after the last game of the season and, for Brendan Rodgers, it had happened again.
Another season spent in the top four, longer than any other team, only for Champions League qualification to slip through Leicester City’s fingers once again.
A home loss to Tottenham when a win would have done it. And they had led twice.
Brendan Rodgers revealed that Marcelo Bielsa helped him after Leicester ruined a top four spot
The Foxes lost to the Spurs on the final day of last season and Rodgers felt ‘numb’ after
No wonder Rogers felt numb. His side had blown him away again. He needed a vacation, it was time to get away. But first he had a visitor: Marcelo Bielsa.
The two coaches meet this afternoon, and both teams are off to an uneven start to the Premier League season.
They had planned before the disappointment on Rodgers’ last day to meet at Leicester training ground. The two talked about soccer. What else would two obsessive tacticians talk about?
At times, Bielsa spoke in English through his interpreter, at other times, Rodgers spoke in Spanish, a language he studied six years earlier in his career. In the end, Bielsa had given Rodgers some perspective.
Leeds manager Bielsa (above) arrived at the Leicester and Rodgers training facilities in the summer
“It has a real chilling 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 is a great man.
“ He got ready to go in, take a look at our facilities and talk about football. It felt good. I left the conversation having lost the day before and before I went on vacation it was really cool to chat with him. I had a great morning with him. ‘
There are few managers in the world who would not mention Bielsa’s name as an inspiration. Pep Guardiola has. So did Mauricio Pochettino, who played with Bielsa on Newell’s Old Boys and Espanyol.
Rodgers is no different. “I have followed his career since the days he was in Argentina,” he says. I have seen many of his sessions. He has an unwavering commitment to how he wants to play. That takes a lot of courage in this game sometimes.
Rodgers (left) and Bielsa will meet on Sunday as Leciester travels to Leeds and Elland Road.
You may have heard it yourselves, that they are too open. But his commitment, he has an inherent faith in it. But he has values as a person. When you talk to him and listen to him, he has had a fantastic career. He is very influential in his methods. You see their enthusiasm. He loves football and that really shines. ”
Those feelings are mutual. Bielsa is now 66 years old, Rodgers 48. At that age, Bielsa was on the verge of leading Argentina, his birth country, to Olympic gold after winning three league titles in his homeland.
Bielsa believes that Rodgers is better than he was at this point in his career. Rodgers, meanwhile, has led Leicester to their first FA Cup, consecutive Premier League finals in fifth place, as well as two Scottish titles, two Scottish Cups and three Scottish League Cups with Celtic.
“I think Rodgers is better now than I was when I was his age,” says Bielsa. ‘Back then, I was in control of a lot less than he was at the moment. When I was his age, there were only three of us surrounding the whole team.
White coach Bielsa (second from left) admits that Rodgers is ‘better than me at his age’
Now, as a coach, above the group of players, you also have to manage 25 other people to be able to move the team forward. To be able to do what Rodgers does today, you have to be very capable. ‘
While Bielsa has never won trophies to match the adulation his coach receives from his teammates, his influence has spread to the top coaches of the modern game. Rodgers also hopes to be remembered in a similar light.
“My top priority has always been to teach and train the players to be the best they can be, developing those players,” he says.
“ Hopefully when I’m done, they’ll consider me someone who developed exciting players and teams that played attacking football. And if I’ve been lucky enough to have won some trophies along the way, so be it.