If Pep Guardiola has an input on who follows him into the hot seat when he decides to call time on his spell at the Etihad, Marcelo Bielsa might expect a call.
Because during a gushing tribute on the eve of their first clash in eight years, the current Manchester City boss insisted he could think of no-one better in world football.
During his appraisal of the Leeds United boss, Guardiola insisted Barcelona would have been well-served taking him when he left for Bayern Munich in 2012.
He labelled Bielsa as both “inspirational” and “inimitable” ahead of their clash of minds on Saturday evening (5.30pm kick-off).
And for good measure, he added that the 65-year-old Argentinian was the person he admired the most in football.
Two-time Premier League and Champions League winner Guardiola hailed: “I think he’s the most authentic manager all the time, in terms of how he conducts his teams. Nobody can imitate him, it’s impossible.
“I was fortunate sometimes – I don’t see him quite as much now – but when I get the pleasure to spend time with him, it’s always inspirational for me.
“My theory that the value of the manager does not depend on how many titles or prizes you win is reflected by him, because I feel far away from having his knowledge as a manager.
“My teams won more titles than him but, in terms of knowledge of the game and many things, training sessions, I’m still away from him.
“He’s probably the person I admire the most in world football – as a manager and as a person.”
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Asked whether Bielsa could have followed him into the Nou Camp hotseat he said: “Absolutely, he could have trained everywhere.
“It’s a good gift to the Premier League to have him here because his teams are always a joy to watch. They are honest, they always want to attack and they produce good football for spectators.”
After such a gushing tribute Guardiola might reasonably feel short-changed if Leeds take so much as a point from his City side this afternoon.
But the fact remains that the Leeds boss has yet to inflict defeat on Guardiola in three meetings when they were managers of Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao between 2011 and 2012.
Further bad news for Bielsa and Leeds is that City are looking to bounce back from what was quite possibly the worst defeat of Guardiola’s reign against Leicester City last weekend.
Added to that they warmed up with a comfortable win against Burnley in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.
“We are still a little bit away from our best for many reasons but it is what it is,” said the City boss.
“If we start to complain we aren’t going to make any step forward, and the big clubs who want to try to achieve good things they step forward with the situations that they have.”
Guardiola admitted that his old club still wanted to take Eric Garcia from City but that there was no agreement on terms between the two.
He added: “I know he wants to leave and that Barcelona want him but there is no deal between the clubs right now. How it’s going to finish I don’t know.”
Probable Man City team to face Leeds (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Ake, Laporte, Mendy; De Bruyne, Rodri, Fernandinho; Mahrez, Sterling, Foden.
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