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Sport

Having Bielsa in the Premier League is a gift, says Guardiola

(Reuters) - Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is among the most successful of all time, but when it comes to his knowledge of the game, he says he falls a long way short of Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa.

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While the Argentinean has not enjoyed anything like the success of City’s Spanish boss, Guardiola said on Friday that Bielsa, whose side host City in the Premier League on Saturday, is the person he admires most in world football.

Bielsa has changed the culture and playing style at Leeds and brought them back to the top flight after a 16-year absence having won the second-tier Championship last season.

Guardiola admitted that Johan Cruyff was his most influential mentor, having worked for four years with the Barcelona great, but he is one of many coaches who say they have been inspired by Bielsa.

“It is a good present, a good gift to have him in the Premier League,” Guardiola told reporters.

“I think (Bielsa is) probably the person I admire the most in world football as a manager and as a person. I think he is the most authentic manager all the time in terms of how he conducts his teams, he is unique.

“Especially his behaviour as a person off the pitch... My theory is the manager is not about the titles because I feel far away from his knowledge. My teams won more titles than his, but in terms of knowledge of the game, I am (far) away from him.”

Leeds had a baptism of fire in a 4-3 loss against champions Liverpool in their opening game but have since won twice with an exciting brand of attacking football to move up to seventh, three points ahead of City who have a game in hand.

“They do exactly what they have to do. They are a team, fight for each other, defend a lot around the box,” Guardiola added.

“They have good build up. At the right moment, they arrive with a lot of players. I played three times against Marcelo at (Athletic) Bilbao and every game was so difficult.”

Guardiola confirmed injured striker Gabriel Jesus would not be ready until after the international break while midfielder Ilkay Gundogan was back in training after testing positive for COVID-19 last month.

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis

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