As we covered earlier today, Leeds United winger Pablo Hernandez has given Marca a long interview, talking a lot (genuinely, he couldn’t stop mentioning it) about the club’s chances of promotion to the Premier League and the new contract he signed this week.
But by speaking to a foreign outlet, of course the player would have to answer several questions about Marcelo Bielsa. The manager is famous throughout the football and his living legend has only further increased since the move to Elland Road.
First asked about how is feel working with the Argentine, Hernandez had a long answer.
“It is a very good experience,” Hernandez told Marca. “Last year, when his signing was made official, it was a pleasant surprise that a coach like him came to a Championship club. That the project is good and beautiful is what caught his attention. And what to say personally! Last year, with 34 years, it was my best season as a professional at the level of statistics.
“I’m happy. When a player reaches this age it’s difficult to know new facets of football and live new experiences. I’m taking full advantage of it and trying to get all the good things that he transmits to me.”
Then Marca asked him if it’s ‘special’ to have Bielsa in charge, and Hernandez was hardly going to say no.
“Yes. From my experience, each coach has his style, but with Bielsa I have known a new facet, something totally different. It’s an experience from which I’m trying to learn as much as possible. In sports and personal treatment it’s different from what I had lived. He’s a coach who is showing that he knows how to get the most out of his players.”
On the highlights of the manager’s methods, Hernandez said: “The way of training is totally different. We are the team with the most possession of the Championship, even more than some Premier League clubs. We like to go out playing from behind, quickly recover the ball and make a high pressure. When you see such a team, you think it will train on possession a lot… and it’s quite the opposite. Bielsa is a coach who looks for other methods, other exercises, in a year and a half we have been with him, we have not done any in training.”
The player also recalled the time when they had to clean the training centre. He didn’t volunteer to tell the story, it’s just that ever since it was reported Leeds United players are continually quizzed on it as another example of El Loco’s methods.
“They are exercises that give personal value and that make us value those people who fill the stadium at home and away, who move in masses making a great economic effort. It makes us put on their skin. We’re privileged, but we don’t have to lose the perspective of those people who support us, who make an effort to follow us. Bielsa looks for that link and that we feel very identified with the fans, and that is why he gives us many talks and we do this type of exercises.”
The 34-year-old was also asked about the Aston Villa episode, when Bielsa asked Leeds to concede a goal on purpose. This is another story which continues to go around the world’s sport media, as an example of fair-play.
“There was a lot of tension. At the moment we got the goal a fight formed. I had a yellow and I didn’t want to take a chance. At that time, Bielsa called me and transmitted to me, since we speak the same language, what he thought, what he felt we had to do at that time. I passed it to the teammates. Also the captain, who through the assistants was given that instruction from the bench. Bielsa is our leader, the coach, we support his decision and we decided to let them score a goal to tie. They are things that also define your personality, our mentality and that have a lot of repercussion. It was a moment in a game, that decision was made and we did the right thing.”
Finally, Hernandez had to talk a little about spygate, even though he claims to be tired of it.
“I don’t know if it affected us sportingly, but we got a little tired. It seemed that everyone wanted to divert the focus to that issue and detract from what the team was doing, which was to play football well and be in direct promotion positions for almost the entire season. All the teams seemed to be using it to attack us and it reduced value of what we were doing. Bielsa assumed his guilt, admitted that he was wrong and that’s it. We tried not to give it more importance than it had because we knew that it didn’t win games, that the winners were us on the pitch.”