The role Viduka played in bringing Bielsa to Leeds


Socceroos legend Mark Viduka may have left Leeds United nearly 15 years ago in 2004, but he played a role in the process that saw cult-hero Marcelo Bielsa join the Championship club at the start of this season.

It all started in 2001 when Viduka spearheaded Leeds' incredible UEFA Champions League run that saw them go all the way to the semi-finals. 

Viduka was on fire that season, scoring 22 goals in 53 matches. 

The Australian centre-forward produced a memorable performance in the group stage against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, scoring one goal and setting up another in a 3-2 loss. 

Watching on that night, was a 21-year-old Victor Orta - the current director of football at Leeds, who personally convinced Bielsa to take the coaching role. 

Orta would go on to be mesmerized by Viduka as his Leeds side staged an improbable defeat of an extremely talented Deportivo La Coruna in the quarter-finals before being knocked out by fellow La Liga side Valencia in the semi-final.

Having risen through the ranks to become technical director at Seville and Zenit St Petersburg, 'transfer guru' Orta would go on to win promotion to the Premier League with Middlesbrough alongside then-coach Aitor Karanka in 2016.

Orta was in high demand with many offers in Spain and elsewhere but that famous Leeds team, and Viduka in particular, had a huge impact on him and was the reason he decided to join as director of football. 

"Obviously, the board convinced me and I have options to go back to Spain, but when you hear Leeds United, I hear Viduka, I hear the spirit, in my mind I am watching him playing in the Bernabeu, the amazing game versus Deportivo La Coruna here," Orta says.

“I grew up with this team. Watching the Valencia semi-final. I grew up with this team in my life.

“My decision [to join Leeds], the first is about history, about the feeling of putting this team at its real level.”

In 2018, with Leeds United set for another mid-table finish in the Championship, chairman Andrea Radrizzani asked Orta who his favourite coach was. 

"I said Marcelo Bielsa, and I thought his ideas could fit the club in this moment," Orta recounts. 

"But obviously I'm not stupid. I told him I thought it was impossible.

"The Chairman said to me, 'why you don't try?', and then the rest is history."

Seventeen years after he watched Viduka and co take on Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, Orta managed to convince Bielsa to join Leeds in June of 2018.

But there is still history to be made, as Leeds fight for promotion once again.