There seems to be a bit of worry concerning the reported transfer fee for Dan James amongst some Leeds United fans. If reports are to be believed the fee for James will be close to the fee we paid for proven Championship striker Patrick Bamford. While the Welsh international is clearly talented and has a lot of potential he is nowhere near the finished article. Given that, it seems a lot of money, but the key to this is Marcelo Bielsa. It is reported Bielsa is driving this move, he has seen something in James that he really likes, and for that reason Daniel James is worth the fee.
Marcelo Bielsa is a great coach, a man who legends of the game such as Inter Milan icon Javier Zanetti regard as vital in their careers. But what isn’t talked about as much as how great a coach he is, is what an incredible eye for talent he has. In the early 1990s Bielsa joined Mexican side Atlas FC as a Director Of Football (He later became head coach), his job was to identify the next generation of stars, coach and train them. He revolutionised scouting in Mexico, to this day Bielsa's methods are still widely used in Mexico.
Bielsa personally helped identify and train many future legends of Mexican Football during his time there. Jared Borgetti, the second highest Mexican national goal scorer behind Javier Hernandez, Pavel Pardo the second highest Mexican national team appearance maker who had a decent spell in Germany with Stuttgart, Mexican goalkeeping legend Oswaldo Sanchez and the best known in Europe of the bunch former Barcelona and Monaco central defender Rafael Marquez.
The impact Bielsa had on Mexican football is legendary, without his eye for talent and scouting ways they may never have found many of their all-time greats. Similarly his dedication and eye for talent saw Bielsa famously drive around Argentina looking for young players and casually discovering future Argentina defender and La Liga stalwart Maurcio Pochettino and possibly one of the best number 9s of all time Serie A and Argentina goal machine Gabriel Batistuta. But that’s just the start of it, even as National Team manager Bielsa had an eye for spotting the players of the future before they were established at club level.
In 1999 Pablo Aimar was still a bit part player for River Plate, not yet the skilful playmaker who helped Valencia to two La Liga titles or the player that was one of the heroes of Lionel Messi. He had yet to establish himself, but Bielsa saw something in Aimar, giving him his international debut in the Summer of 1999, the following season Aimar inspired River and very soon he was on his way to La Liga. There are many more instances of Marcelo Bielsa being able to see the potential in a young player before most people.
When Claudio Bravo was trying to establish himself at Colo-Colo in the early 2000s, Bielsa gave him his international debut and made the young man his number 1 before European football had cottoned on. In July 2003 Bielsa gave a small but feisty midfielder his international debut, the 19 year old had not played a minute of senior club football, 16 years late this teenager is a multiple La Liga and Champions league winner and his countries most capped player, the 19 year old was Javier Mascherano.
But it’s not just as an international manager Bielsa has a keen eye for talent and potential, he was the manager who realised Javi Martinez could play centre back, he was the manager who realised Dimitri Payet was a number 10 not a winger. He was the manager who spotted the potential in two of the best defenders in the world, Benjamin Mendy and Aymeric Laporte and gave them their breakthroughs while at Marseille and Bilbao. He saw the talent Mario Lemina had at Marseille and gave him a chance, Lemina went on to join Juventus and then became Southampton’s record signing.
And since we are talking about Bielsa as a scout… In February 2015 a Local newspaper in Marseille reported that Bielsa had identified his main target for that summer, as fate would have it that player was due to play against Marseille that very evening, he was awesome, inspiring his side to a victory away in Marseille. Marseille however weren’t willing to fully back Bielsa, they did make an offer but it was lower than needed, the midfielder ended up going elsewhere. That midfielder is now a World Cup and multiple time Premier league winner, a PFA player of the year and a multiple time fans player of the year, it was N'Golo Kante.
Funnily enough Bielsa had identified his ideal centre midfield partner for Kante as well, Marseille missed out on him to, today PSG are trying to buy him from Everton, Idrissa Gueye. Bielsa has an extraordinary eye for talent and potential, if he wants James then that’s a good enough endorsement, Marseille didn’t back their manager and missed out on two of the best midfielders in the world.
Lille despite the difficult time Bielsa had there did back him when he identified a pretty unspectacular 21/22 year old forward, the French side made sure to sign the player Bielsa identified. That player today is wanted by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Arsenal and many more, he is the most highly wanted striker in Europe with a price tag of £80million. Lille backed Bielsa when he identified Nicolas Pepe, £8 million seemed ludicrous, he is now worth ten times that.
Content by Cjay from our Bielsa Knows Talent discussion thread.
Bielsa knows talent, the transfer fees are worth it