Marcelo Bielsa set to be next Lille manager

Bielsa has managed Argentina and Chile before succesful stints in club football -- at Athletic Bilbao and Marseille. (Courtesy: Wikimedia commons) Photograph:( Others )

AFP Lille, France Feb 19, 2017, 02.09 PM (IST)

Iconic Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa, known as 'el Loco' for his intense 'all in' style, is returning to France as manager of Lille, the newly bought out Ligue 1 club said on Sunday.

"Lille and the Argentine coach have signed a two years deal which comes into effect in July," Lille announced.

Rumours had been ripe that Bielsa, who handled Argentina and Chile before succesful stints at Athletic Bilbao and Marseille, would join the struggling northerners who were French champions in 2011.

Bielsa is said to have inspired the likes of Jorge Sampaoli, Diego Simeone, Mauricio Pochettino and even Pep Guardiola, who in 2012 described Bielsa as the best coach on the planet.

"He could coach any club anywhere so the fact he chose us adds dimension to our project here," the club's new owner Gerard Lopez told AFP.

"His recruitment is the first concrete step of everything we have promised to do here," added the Luxembourg-Spanish tycoon.

Bielsa is known for cranking up the pressure and squeezing the most out of modest formations, taking Athletic Bilbao to a Europa League final in 2012, and coming close to a French title with Marseille. 

He left Marseille in a blaze of fury one game into the 2015-2016 season, before a two day stint at Italian side Lazio.

"That doesn't worry me at all," Lopez told AFP when asked about Bielsa's walk outs. "He's a pro, and those were clearly justified decisions for specific reasons."

Lille are 14th in Ligue 1, and were taken over three weeks ago by Lopez, former owner of Formula One team Lotus.

Earlier this week Lopez recruited Franck Passi who was Bielsa's assistant at Marseille, to oversee the rest of the season.