Marcelo Bielsa is a man that derives an extraordinary amount of satisfaction from making do with what he has.
Indeed, he’s the furthest thing from the newly coined term ‘cheque-book manager’ and you almost get the feeling that he enjoys the job of management even more when the chips are heavily stacked against his team. This is when the Argentine begins to perform his most impressive miracles.
An unforgettable win against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium when Leeds had 10 men was one of those moments as Bielsa expertly shuffled around his pack and outfoxed his apprentice, Pep Guardiola. It’s never panic stations for the 65-year-old when the going gets tough and he’s proved that time and time again over his stay at Elland Road as he asks seemingly unqualified personnel to plug a hole. It works every time and goes a long way in revealing how phenomenal a coach he really is.
Naturally, however, as Leeds have progressed and become more established in England’s top-flight, they have begun acquiring the means to bring in players of a higher quality. We’ve seen that with the signing of Rodrigo and Raphinha, and lately with Junior Firpo, who has joined Leeds from Barcelona until the summer of 2025.
Ultimately, they’ve all been shrewd signings and have left Leeds at just 12/1 in the latest Space Casino betting to finish in the top four. Indeed, Leeds and Bielsa have continued with the less is more approach after once again opting for quality over quantity and the odds above prove that it is a strategy that is working.
Of course, the Argentine is famous for not wanting a big squad but, to some, Leeds still look like a team that is short of a few bodies in defence. This is why Firpo’s arrival from Barcelona is so intriguing but a closer look at the left-back’s attributes should allay any fears that the Elland Road faithful might have.
For starters, the 24-year-old can play as a centre-back or even fill in at right-back. Indeed, Firpo has played across the defence for Barcelona and Real Betis in the past and hasn’t looked out of place whilst doing so. This is the telltale sign of an intelligent footballer and someone that Bielsa would have been desperate to sign given his versatility.
Additionally, at just over six feet, Firpo is slightly taller than your average left-back which gives him an aerial advantage whilst on the flank but also, crucially, when he slips into a centre-back position. Furthermore, when the time comes to switch over to the right side of the defence for whatever reason, Firpo won’t be out of his depth as he possesses a deft touch with his right foot. The 24-year-old also offers the added bonus of being able to cut in on his left foot whilst operating on the right when joining one of Leeds’ famous attacking moves.
In essence, Junior Firpo will be able to do whatever Marcelo Bielsa asks of him to a very high standard if Leeds suffer any injuries at the back. It’s early days still but Firpo’s signing will surely turn out to be one of the best bits of business throughout the entire Premier League this summer.