Manchester City travel to Leeds in the Premier League on Saturday in a clash between two of the game’s greatest tacticians
Pep Guardiola says he admires Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa more than anybody else in football.
Leeds host Manchester City on Saturday evening in one of the most keenly-anticipated games of the Premier League season, with two of football’s most influential coaches going head-to-head.
Guardiola has often spoken of his admiration for Bielsa, saying the 65-year-old is “absolutely at the top of the list” as a coach after he guided Leeds to the Championship title.
Now the City boss, who has won eight league titles in three countries in his 12 seasons as a top-flight manager, says there is more to the job than trophies – and Bielsa encapsulates everything he values about the role.
“He is probably the person I admire the most in world football – as a manager and as a person,” Guardiola said in his pre-match press conference.
“I think he is the most authentic manager all the time. In terms of how he conducts his teams, he is unique.
“Nobody can imitate him, it’s impossible, especially his behaviour as a person off the pitch and related to the media.
“I was fortunate sometimes. I don’t see him quite as much – now, when I get the pleasure to spend time with him, it’s always inspirational for me.
“The value of the manager does not depend on how many titles he has won. My teams have won more titles than him but in terms of knowledge of the game, I am still below him.
“His teams are always a joy to watch; how honest they are, they always want to attack and produce good football for the spectators.”
However, on a personal level, he said Bielsa had not been more influential than the late Johan Cruyff, whom Guardiola played under for Barcelona.
“No, no because I’ve not been with him day-by-day, in terms of training, so Johan Cruyff was by far the most influential coach in my life.”
While Leeds snuck past Sheffield United with a solitary Patrick Bamford goal last time out, their previous league fixtures – a 4-3 defeat at Liverpool followed by a 4-3 win over Fulham – suggest entertainment is on the cards against City.
“They are a team who do what they have to do, they know what to do against their opponents,” Guardiola said.
“They fight and run – a lot of people in the box, a good build up and in the right moments a lot of players. It’s a good team, all of Marcelo’s teams are; I played three times against Bilbao and it was always so difficult.”