Victor Orta interview: Leeds United's director of football was third time lucky in Marcelo Bielsa appointment

Leeds United director of football Victor Orta has revealed that it was third time lucky in his efforts to appoint Marcelo Bielsa.

Bielsa was brought to Elland Road in the summer following a 2017/18 campaign that saw Leeds finish in mid-table.

The move was one of the most high-profile appointments in United's history, also making Bielsa the highest-paid coach in the club's 99-year history.

Leeds became Orta's fifth club when he joined in May 2017. The Spaniard was the director of football when Sevilla won the UEFA Cup in 2006, alongside holding roles as technical director at Zenit St Petersburg and Elche.

Prior to that, he also played a part in Middlesbrough's promotion to the Premier League in 2016.

Alongside overseeing the player signings at the club, Orta was instrumental in the appointment of Bielsa in June. The Whites were looking for the man who they felt could return them to the top flight.

Speaking exclusively to Sky Bet, Orta stated that it wasn't the first time he had tried to secure the signature of the Argentine coach, who has influenced the likes of Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino.

Victor Orta (left) and Andrea Radrizanni
Victor Orta (left) and Andrea Radrizanni

"I know the manager because of a process that changed the coach in Sevilla," Orta said.

"I prepared a report for recommendation to Sevilla and in the end he decided to go the Athletic (Bilbao).

"In the process in Zenit, I recommended to the board to hire him and then we had a conversation and in the end, for other reasons, we finished with Andres Villas-Boas.

"He (Andrea Radrizzani) asked me 'what is your ideal situation?' and obviously I said for me, my favourite coach is Marcelo Bielsa and I think his ideas can fit for the club at the moment.

"But obviously I am not distributing the same nomination because I think it is impossible. The chairman said to me 'why don't you try?' and then the rest is history."

In his first season in charge, Bielsa has Leeds sitting in second in the Sky Bet Championship table with seven games remaining, two points clear of Sheffield United in the automatic promotion spots.

They are five points behind current leaders Norwich, with 11/2 available on Leeds to win the title this season.

For the club's director of football though, while results are important, he said that the appointment was key for other reasons.

Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa

"The people think about the results," Orta continued, "but even without the results, it was a massive appointment for this club because it increases the standards of the club in each minute

"This is important for a club, that a person working with you can improve your level like that."

In Orta's first season in his role, Leeds finished 13th, 15 points adrift of the play-offs. Thomas Christiansen and Paul Heckingbottom saw spells in the dugout but neither could guide the club to their aim of reaching the top six.

It was a difficult season for everyone involved, but in particular for Orta with some sections of the Elland Road faithful suggesting a change could be the way forward for the club.

With time to reflect on that unsuccessful campaign, he explained: "Last season for me, the easy situation was to leave because the things didn't go really well but I don't want a defence for last season, I made a lot of mistakes too but we are creating a bond that is super for the fans."

"I had offers to go back to Spain and I said no, I talked with my wife about this and she said 'Victor, don't be stupid, if you believe in what you are making, don't stay in Spain and watch while Leeds United are promoted and you are away' and I thought 'wow, it's true'."

Patrick Bamford celebrates a goal against West Brom
Patrick Bamford celebrates a goal against West Brom

While many will be hoping that Leeds can end their 15-year absence from the Premier League, Orta was keen to stress that it's important to remember the whole season instead of just the outcome.

"It's true that, in football, we are always never happy. But when you win, half of it is being scared for the next result and you start to then think about the next result.

"It's true that, in football, we need to enjoy more of the route, of the journey. We never enjoy the journey, we are always nervous or upset or worry about the situation. But it is true that I am enjoying a lot of the journey of this season."

However, it's clear that the main aim is to secure promotion, and Orta is eager to build upon that for the future.

He added: "The mission is of this club is realistic because you have the weight of the history behind. I need to respect this history to try and grow in the future, obviously."

This interview was a part of Sky Bet's Real Football Stories. You can watch more of this series and Sky Bet's other EFL content by heading here.


Odds correct as of 1600 BST on 02/04/19

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