Should Marcelo Bielsa be punished for spying?
By Joe Harker
About a week ago the police apprehended a suspicious individual outside Derby County's training ground. The individual had pliers, binoculars and a disguise with them, though they were released without charge later. It turns out that they were working on the orders of Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa, who had sent them to spy on Derby because the clubs were due to play each other at the weekend.
This incident was dubbed "spygate", causing much outrage and no small level of bemusement from the British media and pundits. Most criticised Bielsa for sending a spy, taking the moral high ground and insisting such untoward business was considered unsporting over here.
A few suggested what they though to be appropriate punishments including reversing the result of the Leeds game against Derby (Leeds won 2-0), or docking points from the club. What Bielsa did was considered unsporting, though he hasn't actually broken any laws by sending someone to watch opponents train. Any such punishment would set a precedent for any subsequent incidents, so it is important that any such sanction is appropriate.
The Leeds United manager then called a surprise press conference, was he going to announce his resignation and finish off this ridiculous chapter in football outrage with an even more outrageous gesture?
Not quite. The press conference involved Bielsa admitting that he'd spied on every team Leeds had played against this season, then dazzling those in attendance by running through a powerpoint explaining just how meticulously he analyses opponents. Many came away from the press conference more than a little impressed at just how much effort the manager put into studying his opponents.
Henry Winter of The Times argued that Bielsa should be punished, then invited to St George's Park to teach coaches his meticulous methods of analysis. The information the manager revealed gave him justifiable grounds to claim that he knew an opponent's team better than they knew themselves, it would be a waste to think you couldn't learn from him.
The Guardian's Jonathan Wilson suggested that spygate and Bielsa's press conference afterwards would only enhance the manager's legend. Bielsa readily admitted he had spied on everyone else and showed just how he gathered information about opponent. By admitting to everything the manager would win over some who had criticised him for subterfuge, by explaining just how prepared he was others would consider him an analytical genius.
Surely nobody must be loving this more than Leeds fans. Spygate gave them a chance to rally round their manager and feel like the whole world wanted to knock them off a perch, now they know even more about their manager they must surely think he is even more brilliant than they already did.