Marcelo Bielsa can take the Socceroos to the next level if he ever follows through on his teasing hint about moving Down Under, say former stars of the Australian game.
The maverick coach was tipped to replace Ange Postecoglou for the Socceroos job in 2017 but FFA bosses instead went with Dutch guru Bert Van Marwijk.
But last year, during a pre-season tour in the country with current club Leeds United, the Argentine said he “would like to be part of the football” in Australia in some capacity in the future.
Guiding Leeds back to the Premier League, where they face Liverpool on Sunday after a 16-year hiatus, has done nothing to dampen the excitement that Bielsa’s comments spawned last July.
Ex-Newcastle Jets star Michael Bridges, who spent five years at Leeds and remains a club ambassador, watched fondly as his former club marched back to the promised land playing Bielsa’s famed brand of football.
“They were just a joy to watch,” said Bridges “The energy, the rotations, the way Bielsa gets his message across to players is absolutely brilliant.
“Bielsa worked so hard with this team. I look at Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool – they’ve got a game plan and they stick with it. Bielsa’s exactly the same.”
Former Aussie greats and fellow Optus Sport panellists John Aloisi and Mark Schwarzer share Bridges’ enthusiasm for the Argentine.
Aloisi told FTBL: “It would be a massive coup for us to get someone like Bielsa, just because of what he’s done in football around the world and also he has that national experience.”
The 44-year-old ex-Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Heart boss also pinpoints the long-term effect his stewardship would have on young players and coaches in the domestic game.
“You see the national teams he’s gone to, like Chile, they seem to have success both with him and after he’s gone,” Aloisi added.
“He leaves a bit of a legacy, and that’s just because of the style of football he brings with him.”
Schwarzer says the template Bielsa has followed at Leeds would be a good fit for the hardworking Socceroos.
“They’ve worked incredibly hard and they play a style of football that’s been very difficult to play against, at least in the Championship. And it kind of matches up with Australia.
“There’s not necessarily any big names players but they are players that are willing to work really hard – and Bielsa would add that technical nous.”
If Bielsa were to take up a role in Australia, it should be at the highest level, Bridges insisted.
He added: “For me, if he was to be involved in any part of the Australian game it should be at the very top of the game as a coach or educator.
"To get the coaches all singing from the same hymn sheet and get them playing the Bielsa way.
“I would just love to see him involved. He’s a genius. He may be eccentric but he’s got the [Leeds] players to buy into his system.
“He’s just the right character that any club or nation would love to have involved.”