Marcelo Bielsa believes Frank Lampard’s sacking at Chelsea has sounded the death knell for English football.
In an extraordinary take on foreign ownership of Premier League clubs and the growing pressure on managers for instant success, the Argentine fears the nation that invented the game is losing its soul.
Bielsa, an Argentine who works for Italian and American owners at Elland Road, reckons overseas influences now wield too much power in the world’s richest league.
And while Bielsa and Lampard fell out spectacularly two years ago over the infamous Spy Gate saga, the 65-year-old’s passionate defence of his rival illustrates his deep affection for the English game.
Bielsa said: “First of all I can’t judge Chelsea ’s decision, but secondly I regret that he (Lampard) wasn’t able to finish his project.
“The feeling I get is that the group Lampard built is one of the best groups in English football – and when you say a very good group in English football, you mean the whole world.
“Evidently that group needed development and time, so I regret that a colleague who has designed a very interesting project wasn’t able to finish it.
“With respect to the time that coaches are given by institutions, English football, which had been a leader in the world with regards to allowing managers time to develop their projects, has clearly stopped doing so.
“English football, every time in is owned less by the English, has less of the English spirit.”
Bielsa added: “Very well qualified coaches arrive, very good players arrive, the quality of the spectacle is improved and the scenario stops being national and becomes international.
“But there are things which English football possessed which it no longer possesses – things which made it very attractive.
“For example, in a scenario where a team can be created over a long period of time, the improvement of the project was valued through hard work and support.
“To lose that is to lose a lot of things. Not so much for the most powerful teams, who can resolve any conditions they come across.
“The public only values the badge and the result.
“One day all of this is going to have consequences that the public is going to regret.”
Leeds face Leicester on Sunday with their season at a crossroads.
A victory at Newcastle in midweek kept Bielsa’s team in a comfortable mid-table position after successive defeats.
And while the Argentine has steadfastly stuck by his principles in Leeds’ first season back in the top flight for 16 years, he regards the job Brendan Rodgers has done at the King Power Stadium as the perfect example of what can be achieved with time and patience.
Leeds owner chairman Andrea Radrizzani has namechecked the Foxes as the kind of club he would like to emulate.
Bielsa said: “Leicester is an example because they have two players per position and you don’t make this construction overnight.
“A team that’s not in the top six is forced to be inventive in order to form a group to be able to compete with the top teams.
“Because the group has made you achieve certain things then you can sell a player to another club and bring in another player of similar quality.
“This interpretation of the way you manage a football club has big benefits, but it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long-term process.
“If you invest and you want immediate returns, it’s artificial.
“To have a solid process you need patience and tolerance – and of course generosity.
“To observe a club like Leicester, who have invested £100million on a new training centre, is very interesting.
“I’m happy the president of Leeds sees them as a reference.”