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Marcelo Bielsa defies Leeds United quit rumours with passionate defence of 'spygate' incident

17:39 GMT 16/01/2019
Marcelo Bielsa Leeds United
The coach had been accused by some of "cheating" by covertly monitoring opposition teams, but he insists he never saw his actions as unethical

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa has come out fighting against accusations of "cheating" and "unethical" behaviour in a controversial spying incident that has been a talking point in British football for the past week.

He held an emergency press conference at 5pm UK time on Wednesday, with some fans fearing that he might quit as manager over the furore in which the former Chile and Argentina coach sent a Leeds employee to spy on Derby County ahead of their league clash last week.

Police were called to remove a "suspicious individual" from the pre-match training session, and Bielsa assumed responsibility for assigning the individual while saying he viewed it as a regular practice.

Bielsa went on to present his case in defence of what has been dubbed "spygate" and says he's scouted all opposition teams this season, assuming his side is also being monitored by rivals.

"I called this press briefing because we have the usual press conference ahead of Stoke. I thought the spy matter would take away time dedicated to the game," Bielsa, whose Leeds side are top of the Championship after 27 games, told reporters.

"I’ve already said that I’m the one responsible. The club are not responsible whatsoever. The person who did it followed my orders.

"Many condemned me saying it was immoral, unethical and violated fair play. Some say it was cheating. The club felt obliged to make public excuses to Derby.

"I assume the fact that my behaviour is observed. I observed all the rivals and we watched all the training sessions of the opponents before we played against them.

"It’s not a violation of law. We can discuss if it’s right or wrong. I didn’t have bad intentions nor did I try and get an unfair sporting advantage."

The match that followed the "spygate" controversy, which saw top-of-the-table Leeds take on a Derby team also contending for promotion, ended as a 2-0 Leeds victory.

In the aftermath of that match, the English Football League has asked Bielsa and Leeds to explain the "spygate" scandal, while Derby boss Frank Lampard remained highly critical of the incident.

Some have been far less critical, with Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl admitting to sending 'spies' to rival teams' training sessions during his time in Germany.

In the midst of speculation that Bielsa would step down as Leeds manager in dramatic style on Wednesday, Whites defender Pontus Jansson laughed off the rumours by suggesting people had been tricked akin to an April Fool joke.

Widely known for his attention to detail, coaching influence and his antics, Bielsa joined Leeds United in June following a stint with Lille.

Leeds are expected to wrap up a deal for Real Madrid goalkeeper Kiko Casilla in the coming days as the club pushes to return to the top tier for the first time since relegation in 2004.

As things stand, the club sits four points ahead of second-placed Sheffield United and third-place Norwich City in the race for promotion to the Premier League.