Appointing Marcelo Bielsa as coach of Lille was a mistake, a senior figure at the French club has admitted to RMC.
Bielsa signed a two-year contract last summer and was billed as the man to return the club to the summit of French football after Lille had been taken over by ambitious new owners.
However, after a catastrophic start to the season that brought just 12 points from their opening 13 league games, leaving the club second from bottom of Ligue 1, Bielsa was suspended in mid-November and Christophe Galtier was appointed as his permanent successor in December.
After being told their fragile financial state meant they would be forbidden from making signings in the winter transfer window, the team remain in the thick of the relegation battle while Bielsa is seeking €18.6 million from the club to pay off his contract.
“We have to accept that we made mistakes. We have to say that clearly,” Luis Campos, Lille’s sporting advisor, said to RMC.
“The first is when the club practically gave the keys to the former coach so that he can build his own sporting project. There came a time when the club decided to give practically all the power to the former coach and in my opinion, even today as the DNCG [French football financial watchdog] said no for the winter window, that moment is going to weigh heavily on the whole season. We’re going to pay very dearly for that the whole season long.”
Bielsa, the former Argentina and Chile coach, was given free rein, and took the bold step of gutting last season’s squad, ruthlessly jettisoning a sizeable clutch of Lille’s most experienced players such as Rio Mavuba, Marko Basa and Vincent Enyeama and replacing them with young talents.
“You cannot build a team without having a spine of experienced players to support quality youngsters,” Campos said. “For me, that was when the project was broken.”