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Spygate: Everything you need to know about Marcelo Bielsa’s season-long surveillance of ‘every team’ he’s faced as Leeds manager

Spygate – Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa a man who pays attention to the small details, to say the least.

So much so, that he has sent a member staff to watch every training sessions of ‘every team’ Leeds have faced this season.

Some are calling for Leeds, who are one of the favourites to secure promotion to the Premier League next season, to be docked points. Others, like Jamie Carragher and Gary Lineker, have strengthened their likening for the storied Argentine coach and his covert tactics. There were even suggestions that Bielsa could be forced to resign.

But what exactly is spygate and how does Bielsa spy on his opponents? PlugsvilleSport breaks down everything you need to know.


What is spygate?

Prior to facing Frank Lampard’s side, the police were called to the Derby’s training ground a day before the fixture following reports of ‘a man equipped with binoculars, wire cutters and camoflauge clothing hovering suspiciously on its boundaries’, according to The Guardian.

What transpired was that the mystery man was in fact there on behalf of Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds. That’s right, it wasn’t some weird punter up to no good, it was a professional football club sending their most James Bond-like employee on a planned road trip to obtain exclusive scouting information. Derby lost that encounter 4-1 and Frank Lampard certainly wasn’t impressed:

“I don’t think that, at any level of sport, it’s right to send men to break into private property,” says the Chelsea legend, continuing with:”I’d rather not coach than send people undercover on their hands and knees in the undergrowth”.


What happened next?

The term ‘spygate’ reads more like an MI6-scandal than a football headline, but that word began seeping into various parts of the media and the discussion around whether Bielsa broke any rules with his covert antics expanded. To clarify, it is not illegal for one club to position a member of staff close to another team’s training ground.

If they had broken into or trespassed on private property, it would be a different issue. But there is essentially no difference between a keen fan standing outside the training ground and making notes and a professional coach occupying the same plot of public property working his ways through the x’s and o’s.

On Wednesday 16 January 2019, Bielsa held a 70-minute long press conference to address his covert antics, brazenly stating that he carries out such research on every team he faces. So much so, that he watched 26 Luton games just to get the lowdown of Nathan Jones, who recently moved to Stoke, the team Leeds face this coming weekend.


How does Bielsa spy on his opponents?

Below is a breakdown of all the key points from Bielsa’s spygate press conference:


He acts alone 

“I already said I was the only one responsible for this situation. The club is not responsible whatsoever and nobody on my staff is responsible for it”.


He knows it’s wrong, but not illegal 

“I didn’t have bad intentions and I didn’t try to get an unfair sports advantage. I did it because it was not illegal and not violating a specific norm.”

“Of course I have a point of view, but it’s not important to other points of view. Lampard says he doesn’t believe I have bad intentions.”


He has spies at every training ground 

“I observed all rivals we played against. We watched all the training sessions before we played them.”


Over 200 hours are spent analysing each team

“Of each opponent we watched all the games of 2018-19 – we watched the 51 games of Derby County. The analysis of each game takes four hours of work – why did we do that: Because we think it is professional behaviour.”


The reasons for spying

“You want to know the starting XI, the tactical system they will use and the strategic decisions on set pieces. These are the three main axis that the head coach usually analyses. When you watch the activity of the opponent, you get this kind of information the day before the game or you confirm the information you already have.”


How he shocked Pep Guardiola

“Guardiola had a look at it and he told me ‘you know more about Barcelona than me’.”