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From Big Sam to Bielsa's former assistant: the bookies' favourites for the Leeds job

Jesse Marsch
(Image credit: PA)

Leeds United’s 4-0 home defeat to Tottenham on Saturday proved to be the final straw for head coach Marcelo Bielsa, who was sacked a day later by the relegation-threatened side.

The Whites are now looking for a new boss who can arrest a dreadful slump in form that has left them two points above the drop zone after four consecutive defeats.

Bielsa leaves big shoes to fill. He led the Yorkshire club to the Premier League after 16 years away and guided them to ninth in their first season back.

So who do the bookies think could be tasked with succeeding the charismatic Argentine?

JESSE MARSCH

The American is the runaway favourite to land the Elland Road gig, and reports quickly emerged after the loss to Spurs saying he had been lined up to replace Bielsa.

The former Princeton student was named MLS coach of the year at New York Red Bulls in 2015 and joined RB Leipzig three years later to work as an assistant to Ralf Rangnick.

But he made his name in European football with Red Bull Salzburg, where he won back-to-back league and cup doubles between 2019 and 2021.

That landed Marsch the top job at Leipzig, where he replaced Bayern Munich-bound Julian Nagelsmann, but things didn’t work out as the Bundesliga club sacked him in December after just five wins in 14 league games.

READ MORE: Jesse Marsch: six things you need to know about the favourite to take over at Leeds

SAM ALLARDYCE

They couldn’t…could they? Going from Bielsa to Big Sam feels like the biggest change of style possible, but the vastly experienced 67-year-old is listed as the second favourite to get the job.

His track record of helping teams avoid the drop might explain why. He saved seemingly-doomed Sunderland in 2015/16, and kept Crystal Palace up the following season, both times after being appointed mid-season.

But his luck ran out with his most recent gig. Allardyce was named West Bromwich Albion boss in December 2020 with the club 19th in the standings, and that’s where they ended the season as the former England boss suffered the first top-flight relegation of his career.

West Brom

(Image credit: PA Images)

CARLOS CORBERAN

Highly-rated young Huddersfield coach Corberan is already a familiar figure at Leeds, after leading their Under-23 side and working as an assistant to Bielsa. 

Leeds snapped up the 38-year-old former goalkeeper as their U23 coach in 2017 after a spell in Cyprus with Ermis Aradippou, but he started to combine that job with assisting Bielsa after the Argentine’s arrival a year later.

Bielsa spoke highly of the Spaniard, even saying he valued his opinion “more than my own”, and Corberan eventually set out on his own in senior management by joining the Terriers in July 2020.

His first season was tough, as Huddersfield finished 20th, six points above the relegation zone.

But sticking with the young boss proved to be a good call, as he has them in third place and fighting for promotion from the Championship this term. 

NUNO ESPIRITO SANTO

Nuno

(Image credit: Getty Images)

An experienced Premier League boss, Nuno is out of work after losing his job at Tottenham earlier this season.

The Portuguese impressed during a four-year spell with Wolves between 2017 and 2021, guiding them back to the Premier League and into Europe, even getting as far as the Europa League quarter-finals in 2019/20.

Things never quite clicked at Spurs, though. Nuno was appointed at the start of the season and got off to a brilliant start, winning their first three games including a victory over Manchester City.

But he was eventually sacked in November, after just four months in charge, with his side eighth in the table.

ERNESTO VALVERDE

Valverde has enjoyed life since being sacked by Barcelona in January 2020. He has focused on his career as a photographer, a subject he has studied for years, and the 58-year-old even had his own exhibition in San Sebastian last summer.

His coaching credentials are undisputed. Over an 18-year managerial career, Valverde has won titles with Olympiacos and Barca, as well as leading Espanyol to the UEFA Cup final in 2006/07.

He won La Liga twice with Barcelona in the job he’s best known for, but Champions League second leg collapses to AS Roma and Liverpool in successive years cast a shadow over his time at Camp Nou and he’s yet to get back in the game since leaving.

ANYONE ELSE?

There are some interesting names beyond the bookies’ top five, including Bielsa disciple Jorge Sampaoli, who is currently in charge of Marseille.

Out of work managers like Rafa Benitez, former Roma boss Paulo Fonseca and ex-Granada manager Diego Martinez, who led the Spanish side to Europe for the first time in 2019/20, are also on the list. 

As it stands, though, all signs are pointing to Marsch.

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Alasdair Mackenzie is a freelance journalist based in Rome, and a FourFourTwo contributor since 2015. When not pulling on the FFT shirt, he can be found at Reuters, The Times and the i. An Italophile since growing up on a diet of Football Italia on Channel 4, he now counts himself among thousands of fans sharing a passion for Ross County and Lazio.