Leeds manager Bielsa testifies in bid for damages from Lille

Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa has testified before a French court to make his case for millions of euros in damages over his firing from Lille.

Marcelo Bielsa during an EPL contest between Leeds United and Crystal Palace, at Elland Road, on February 8. - AP

Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa testified before a French court on Friday to make his case for millions of euros in damages over his firing from Lille more than three years ago.

Bielsa lasted just six months at Lille before the French club fired him for “serious misconduct” in December 2017 following poor results.

French media has widely reported that Bielsa is seeking EUR 19 million (USD 23 million) for damages and the remainder of the two-year contract that he had.

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Bielsa told the court, via videoconference, that he was subjected to “harassment” in the months before he was fired, according to La Voix du Nord newspaper. A decision is expected on July 2. The club has previously described Bielsa’s claims as “totally baseless.”

Though considered a master tactician, the 65-year-old Argentine is no stranger to disputes with his employers.

He coached Marseille for the 2014-15 season but walked out after only one game in August 2015. A year later, he quit Italian club Lazio just days after signing, later citing disagreements with management about player recruitment.

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Bielsa spent six years leading Argentina, which included Olympic gold in 2004, and four years with Chile.

Early in his coaching career he picked up the nickname “El Loco” for his obsessive personality and explosive character.

He’s been a hit at Leeds, taking over in 2018 and leading the northern English team back into the Premier League after a 16-year absence from the top tier.

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His tenure in Britain has been marked by controversy, as well. Bielsa sparked a full-blown “Spygate ” investigation in early 2019 after admitting he sent an intern to an opponent’s training centre the day before its game. The intern reportedly carried binoculars and a change of clothes.

Leeds was fined GBP 200,000 (USD 275,000) and received a formal reprimand from the English Football League.

Bielsa had freely acknowledged doing the same with other opponents over the years but apologised. Leeds reminded him of the need to demonstrate “integrity and honesty.”

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