October 22, 2021

‘You don’t realise how different Bielsa is’ – Llorente on ‘shock’ of Leeds training sessions

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The defender says the Argentine’s methods took some getting used following his move to Elland Road last year

Leeds defender Diego Llorente admits training sessions under Marcelo Bielsa came as a “shock”, but believes the manager’s forensic approach to the game will continue to yield positive results on the pitch.

The Spain international joined the Yorkshire club last summer in a €25 million (£23m/$29m) deal from Real Sociedad, with Leeds preparing for their first Premier League campaign in 16 years.

They are all but certain to remain in the top flight next season given they are currently 11th on 39 points, and Llorente is optimistic they can push on even further next year under Bielsa’s leadership.

What did Llorente say about Bielsa?

Bielsa’s unconventional methods are well known, but Llorente says nothing could have prepared him for his first day of training under the former Argentina and Chile boss.

“To be honest, people had spoken to me about Bielsa but until you are actually playing for him you don’t realise just how different he is in so many facets of training,” he told the Guardian.

“At first, it’s a shock because his methodology is so different. There are certain drills that are very analytical, that describe certain specific moments in games that, because of our style of play, are repeated often. Movements you should be making off the ball, the way you support the free man, the help you give teammates. It’s very specific.

“That methodology is striking compared with the more general approaches you’ve been used to, but when you do these exercises and then you see that in 90 minutes that exact situation is repeated 10 or 20 times, you realise why we work that way.

“You understand why we do things differently, that every drill has a meaning, and can be directly transferred on to the pitch. You start to understand that, which is when you realise how special he is. You watch the video analysis, individually and as a team, and you can see how it improves the team.”

Llorente confident injury woes are behind him

Llorente has endured an injury-hit start to his Leeds career, which has limited him to just seven appearances so far this season.

He had to wait until December to make his debut because of a groin problem, before limping off against Newcastle in January with a hamstring injury.

However, since returning against Southampton in late February he has played every minute of the club’s last five matches and earned a call up to the Spain squad for the recent World Cup qualifiers.

“It was a very tough time because as well as the injury I had changed country,” added Llorente, who said he had watched a documentary series on Leeds during his lay-off to learn more about the club. “That’s a big change and my family had to adapt too, and then I’m not playing.

“There were some tough days, but my objective was clear: to be a success here. When you’re driven by a goal like that, nothing else matters.

“There are always setbacks – life puts obstacles in your path – but you have to overcome those with patience and the knowledge that if you keep working your opportunity will come. That was the way I approached things from the first minute until I could finally make my debut. That’s the approach I’ve always had and always will have throughout my career.

“Now I’m just looking forward to getting the fans back, which I’m sure will make a difference. Combine their support and our work and that’s the key to being successful. I still haven’t been able to live that first-hand but I’ve seen it in the documentary and I just hope that day comes soon when I can experience it for myself.”

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