This interview with Mateusz Klich first appeared in the August 2021 edition of FourFourTwo.
Last season, Leeds were close to installing themselves as the Premier League's new 'Entertainers', a quarter of a century after Kevin Keegan's Newcastle lit up the division with a suicidal attacking philosophy which won the neutrals' affection like few before or since.
Marcelo Bielsa's vibrant side brought hyper-intense pressing and a sense of fun in their top-flight return last year. Mateusz Klich has been part of the Yorkshire fabric since 2017 and made the step up look a doddle, scoring four times in 35 league appearances to cement his place as one of El Loco's most trusted on-field lieutenants.
The Polish midfielder sat down with FourFourTwo over the summer to reveal what his goals are for the season ahead...
What did you make of your first season in the Premier League? Were you happy?
Absolutely. If someone had told me a few years back that I’d have got four goals, five assists and my team would finish in the middle of the pack in the strongest league in the world, I would have probably told them to see a psychiatrist! [Laughs] We managed to surprise a lot of people – experts who thought our style couldn’t bring results.
How did you find the step up, compared with the Championship?
The quality is much higher in the Premier League when it comes to individual talent. Here, when you lose the ball in the middle, there’s a bigger chance you’ll concede. The field is more even in the Championship and you play eight more matches, so it’s more gruelling and exhausting physically.
What has Marcelo Bielsa been like for you as a manager – did he change your life?
Enormously. I told him after we’d secured promotion in 2020 that he saved my career. I don’t know where I’d be if it weren't for him. I couldn’t get a break in the Bundesliga, even tried my luck in the German second division and generally couldn’t find my home until I came to Leeds. Bielsa created a new version of me as a player. I’ve listened to everything he’s said and it’s paid off.
What makes him so special?
He gets results. Our training sessions are hard and very specific, but we’re definitely a well-oiled machine where everyone knows his job and the spots he needs to get to. We can all see it’s working. We didn’t change the way that we played football compared to our Championship years, and still got results.
How close are Leeds to European football? Is that something you dream about?
We weren’t as close as some people might think – the Champions League was out of reach. The Europa League? Mathematically, yes, but look at the teams that got there. We have to stay humble and realistic.
What are you hoping for in 2021/22?
I hope we will repeat the same season we had last year and then maybe add a little bit more. Who knows, maybe this time we could compete for the Europa League places? But let’s not forget that the second season is always tougher for newcomers – just look at what happened to Sheffield United last year. They were as good or even better than us in their first year, then got relegated with a bang. So staying up will continue to be the main goal for us – then we’ll see...
This preview appears in the August 2021 edition of FourFourTwo.
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