Phil Hay explains what would've happened to Bielsa & Phillips if Leeds had missed out on promotion

  • Tom Kelly
Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa

Journalist Phil Hay has stated that both Kalvin Phillips and Marcelo Bielsa would have potentially left Leeds United if they hadn't gained promotion last summer.

What did Hay say?

In a jam-packed mailbag, The Athletic's Leeds United correspondent answered some of the supporter's burning questions, including what might have been if Leeds didn't gain promotion to the Premier League last season. 

"You would have seen Phillips sold and potentially other players departing too. Bielsa would either have left or been expected to take a pay cut," Hay shared. 

"There were ways of covering the debts but all of them would have risked compromising the performance of the squad. So winning promotion was crucial because there was no guarantee of such a good chance coming again."

Why would Phillips have departed?

The Leeds midfielder is one of the club's prize assets and was a player that already seemed destined to make the jump to the Premier League, with or without his boyhood club. 

LeedsLive reported in March 2020 that, based upon Transfermarkt's valuations, Phillips had the second-highest value of any Championship player after Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic.

He also made the England squad in August last year, suggesting the midfielder was in Gareth Southgate's thoughts for some time prior.

Leeds likely breathed a sigh of relief knowing that Premier League football would help them hold on to their local golden boy. 

What would have happened with Bielsa?

When the Argentine was appointed as Leeds boss in June 2018, he was one of the highest-paid coaches in the Championship. Furthermore, no Leeds manager in the club's history has earned more than Bielsa. 

Taking into consideration the finances behind the deal, this seemed somewhat of a 'Hail Mary' attempt to get Leeds back in the Premier League.

Bielsa's contract was set to expire at the end of last season and bearing in mind this was at the height of the pandemic, Leeds may have struggled to offer the manager similar terms to his previous deal without the cash injection which comes with featuring in the Premier League.

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In which season did Leeds wear this kit?

How would Leeds be faring in the Championship without Bielsa and Phillips?

It would be a devastating blow to see neither at Elland Road and performances on the pitch would likely reflect this. 

With a new manager at the helm, Leeds would be playing an entirely different style of football, such is the uniqueness of the Bielsa philosophy which has brought them so much success. 

Likewise, without Phillips in holding midfield, the Yorkshire-based side would lack easily one of the top players at Championship level and a key component of their starting XI - the 25-year-old made 44 league starts last season.

Without the pair - not to mention the signings Leeds made this summer - it's not hard to imagine the Whites struggling for a playoff spot, let alone competing for the Championship title. 

It seems like gaining promotion was a real game-changer for Leeds. Not only are they back in the Premier League and enjoying a fine season at that level, but it has also allowed the club to keep hold of arguably their two biggest assets. 

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