Leeds United defender Diego Llorente has admitted that he was shocked by Marcelo Bielsa’s training sessions but believes that the manager’s approach to the game will continually yield positive results on the pitch.
The Spaniard joined Leeds last summer from La Liga outfit Real Sociedad in a deal worth €25 million (£23m/$29m), as the Yorkshire club prepared for their first Premier League campaign in 16 years.
They are looking good to remain in the top flight as they currently sit 11th and have 39 points and Llorente is positive that they can push even further next year under Marcelo Bielsa.
It’s no more news that Bielsa operates with an unconventional approach. However, Llorente disclosed that nothing could have prepared him for his first day of training under the ‘mad man’.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Llorente has had a slow start to life at Elland Road due to injuries and this has limited him to just 7 appearances this season. The defender waited till December to make his debut for the club due to a groin problem and limped off against Newcastle in January with a hamstring injury.
However, things are beginning to brighten up for the Spain international in the Premier League recently.
Since his return to action in Late February against Southampton, he has played every minute of the club’s last 5 games, earning a call up to the Spain squad for the World Cup qualifiers in the just-concluded international break.
“It was a very tough time because as well as the injury I had changed country,” added Llorente, who revealed that he saw a documentary series on Leeds during his injury 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.”