It’s been just over a week since Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United were outed for sending a member of staff to spy on Derby County’s training session ahead of their clash in the Sky Bet Championship.
As Bielsa announced to the world that it was he who was responsible for this callous act of espionage, the football world gathered themselves, assessed the situation and subsequently went into complete and utter meltdown.
“It’s not the way things are done over here. It’s not illegal but it’s immoral, it’s not within the spirit of the game in the way it’s played over here and I don’t really think he gives a damn,” proclaimed Keith Andrews, known guardian of the great English game on Sky Sports.
“If they didn’t get a points deduction I’d be surprised. How else do you lay down a marker making it clear that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable?” questioned Jermaine Jenas on BBC Radio Five Live.
“Leeds should be sanctioned by the FA for unsporting behaviour and at a minimum be made to replay the fixture, a fine for Bielsa and club. Make as light of this as you like. If it continues, we have major competition integrity issues ahead,” bemoaned Stan Collymore on Twitter
How could he do this? How could a foreign manager come into this country and sully the great name of the English game? How dare he think he can imprint his continental ideas on our lads? It’s a disgrace I say! A disgrace!
Holier Than Thou
Leeds United comfortably won the game against Derby by 2-0, but as expected the days following were dominated by talk of “Spygate” as few supported Bielsa’s actions and so many condemned them.
The footballing world declaring that THIS of all the issues in the game, THIS would be the act of infamy that they would hitch their wagon to.
Although not illegal it was condemned for being “unethical” and “immoral.” If only other, wide-ranging problems were as easy as this to meet with such a level of scrutiny.
Against Southampton last weekend, Leicester striker Jamie Vardy blatantly dived in an attempt to win a penalty for his side. The English striker went unpunished, the incident was met with mild discontent the following week on Soccer Saturday.
It occurs on countless occasions in the Premier League. Unlike Bielsa’s spying, it actually is illegal, but does it come under the same magnifying glass? If this week is any indication, the answer is no.
How about Manchester City’s alleged contempt for Financial Fair Play rules? The Der Spiegel investigation was virtually untouched in certain corners of the media despite it revealing incredible wrongs that the club had committed.
Or the rampant racism in the game? Just last week Spurs outlined that they would be investigating an allegation that their striker Heung Min-Son had been racially abused by a spectator at Wembley.
Earlier in the season, Chelsea suspended four of their supporters pending further investigation for alleged racial abuse of Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling.
One wonders what the Man City man feels is the most pressing issue in English football today. Spygate isn’t likely to be high on his list.
Reports also emerged that 11 of the 24 clubs in the Championship have written to the English Football League requesting a detailed investigation into Marcelo Bielsa’s actions.
Clubs that must compete in the same league as Aston Villa who continually make a mockery of the Finacial Fair Play rules racking up heavy losses each week due to the likes of £70,000 a week Yanick Bolasie and £55,000 a week Tammy Abraham being on their books
The same league that houses Bolton chairman Ken Anderson who refused to pay the wages of Forest Green striker Christian Doidge when he was on loan at the club and whose conduct as an owner has been called upon by fans to be investigated by the EFL.
Perhaps clubs’ outrage is being directed to the wrong place.
This Isn’t The First And It Won’t Be The Last
What’s also worrying is the fact that this is a knee-jerk reaction to something that has widely been done before. This is, after all, a game that harboured Jose Mourinho for so many years.
During the week a 2011 interview with Andre Villas-Boas remerged during which he admitted that while working under Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho he would “travel to training grounds, often incognito” to secretly watch opposition in training to elicit further information.
On Friday Pep Guardiola outlined that when he was working in Europe spying on training was common practice. Spurs manager Pochettino condemned the act but explained that when he was playing in Argentina it would happen all the time.
It’s a guarantee that it’s a past time that many managers, even in the holier than thou England have taken part in, and Bielsa outlined in his now infamous hour-long lecture to the doubters on Thursday at Thorp Arch that he has in fact done it all season.
His true crime maybe wasn’t the incident itself, but it was the fact that he got caught, wire cutters in hand.