sport news SPECIAL REPORT: Marcelo Bielsa is unique, relentless and volatile but his ...

Marcelo Bielsa's first trip to England encapsulated the way it has always been with him and football.

He arrived to watch the Euro 96 tournament and fastidiously studied train timetables to be sure that if there were two games played on the same day, he would get to both.

The 65-year-old, whose arrival in the Premier League with Leeds United this weekend provides the season's most compelling new dimension, has spent his professional life applying himself to detail — teams, tactics, opponents — and how they might be applicable to winning matches.

Marcelo Bielsa's arrival to the Premier League with Leeds will be a compelling story this season

Marcelo Bielsa's arrival to the Premier League with Leeds will be a compelling story this season

One of his most cherished successes was the Olympic title he clinched for his native Argentina at the 2004 Athens Games, after a gold-medal match against Paraguay that took place in searing heat at 10am. On the day before the final, he went to the Olympic Stadium to observe the position of the sun at that time of the day and whether it would have implications for his players.

His unearthing of a young player called Mauricio Pochettino, in a town on the road that runs out to Argentina's Atlantic coast, came during his quest to scout young players for his first club, Newell's Old Boys, in 1987.

He had divided Argentina into blocks of 50 square miles, staged tournaments in every one and yet still asked a local coach in a one-horse town if there was talent his system might have missed.

Pochettino, to this day one of Bielsa's most ardent devotees, was mentioned. So Bielsa set off on the road known as Route 33 in his battered white Fiat 147.

The Argentine (centre right) attracts extraordinary levels of devotion from former players including Mauricio Pochettino (centre left)

The Argentine (centre right) attracts extraordinary levels of devotion from former players including Mauricio Pochettino (centre left)

His obsession with football's details can take him into the realms of the ridiculous. He turned up by invitation at the of one of his strikers, Martin Posse, with a stack of the groom's match videos for him to peruse.

In one discussion of his Christmas plans, while between jobs, he declared an intention to do two hours of physical exercise each day and spend 14 hours watching football videos. Videos have always been a huge part of his life.

So many of these details tumble out of Tim Rich's excellent new biography of the man, The Quality of Madness, though the book also encourages a revision of the nickname El Loco (the madman), which he has carried through a 30-year career as a coach at South American clubs, the Argentina and Chile national sides, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille, to name a few.

The 65-year-old has transformed the fortunes of Leeds and won the Championship last season

The 65-year-old has transformed the fortunes of Leeds and won the Championship last season

'It translates as passionate and obsessive,' says Raul Gamez, who knew him from the late 1990s at Argentine club Velez Sarsfield. That's where Bielsa would put a mattress down at the back of a van and lie watching games on video, while one of his staff drove him back from away games.

But what makes this relentless, indefatigable, sometimes bizarre manager such a compelling figure is the extraordinary devotion he attracts from those who have played for him.

Players love him because he makes them — drives them — to play better, think smarter and see the game in a new dimension. There are few better examples than Kalvin Phillips, Bielsa's captain at Leeds, whose potential had come to almost nothing.

Bielsa could not comprehend why Phillips was considered a forward when he looked like he would hold midfield well. He was promptly redeployed as a critical part of Leeds' relentless pressing unit and on Tuesday made his England debut.

His development of Kalvin Phillips into a deep midfielder resulted in his first England call-up

His development of Kalvin Phillips into a deep midfielder resulted in his first England call-up

'He looked like a manager you don't really want to upset when he told me what he wanted me to do,' says Phillips, who returned to Leeds on Thursday to present his first England shirt to Bielsa.

'It was, "Lose weight, learn how to play centre back and in central defensive midfield". It has changed everything. My improvements, my progression. They're all down to him.'

Pochettino describes precisely the same effect, despite training sessions when Bielsa arrived at Espanyol which began at 7.45am followed by breakfast and 90 minutes of gym work. 'He woke me from a period of lethargy. I was too much in my comfort zone — lost but I did not know it,' he says.

Bielsa brings to the

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