Former Leeds United target Andoni Iraola says Marcelo Bielsa has influenced him as a manager.

Iraola was speaking in an interview with Sky Sports, where he discussed Leeds’ interest in him back in February, as well as how he has adapted some of Bielsa’s principles into his own tactics.

The 40-year-old was among Leeds’ top targets to replace Jesse Marsch back in February, though he instead remained at Rayo Vallecano.

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His style of play has won plaudits from across Europe and after consecutive mid-table finishes in La Liga, his stock is currently high.

Iraola highlights influence of ex-Leeds boss Bielsa

Iraola worked under Bielsa as a player during the Argentine’s two-year spell at Athletic Bilbao between 2011 and 2013, which but for a brief four-month spell at Espanyol in 1998, was his first real spell as a manager in Europe.

It was then when really began to be recognised as an elite coach, predominantly thanks to his Bilbao side’s performance in a 3-2 victory at Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in the Europa League.

Excluding a period at the end of his career in MLS, Iraola spent the entirety of his playing days at the Basque outfit, making over 500 appearances.

Iraola regards himself as ‘very lucky’ that he was able to play under a manager like Bielsa and says he ‘uses a lot of things’ he learnt from the 67-year-old.

“I was very lucky to play for him for two seasons as a player. I think he has another vision of football. They were two very good seasons for us, and, for me, it was a different knowledge.

“I use a lot of exercises from Marcelo that I learned from him. I use a lot of things, especially with the ball. Offensively, his teams are very dynamic. He is willing to make all the runs to the space, he is ready to accept this kind of disorder, offensively.

Athletic Bilbao's coach Marcelo Bielsa (
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“It is true that we like, and we perform better, in high-tempo games. We need to run a lot. We don’t need so much control, not in every single play, but I think we have the legs, we have the willingness, to go up and down.”

Should Leeds make a return for Iraola in the summer, it would not be an exaggeration to say fans would already hold him in a higher esteem than the likes of Marsch and Javi Gracia, purely because of his Bielsa influence.

While survival is currently the priority, fans are longing for the return of an attractive style of football they can get behind and Iraola may well be the one who can provide that.

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