Marcelo Bielsa’s biggest low was Argentina’s exit in the group stage of the 2002 World Cup and he wept uncontrollably and banged his head against the dressing room lockers.
Bielsa spent three months locked away in a convent when he quit Argentina two years later after winning gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens because he felt so drained.
As chronicled in a new book on Bielsa, Juan Sebastian Verón, while watching his manager banging his head against the lockers, said: “It was the saddest thing seeing Bielsa crying.
“In the dressing room there were some at the back, some lying down, some trying to draw strength from somewhere.
“I shook their hands one by one. I don’t remember what I said, nor do I want to remember. Bielsa could not speak. He was crying with his assistants, Claudio Vivas and Lucho [Javier] Torrente.
“He wasn’t able to talk to us for a long time. His words were short, his sentences brief. He said he felt a very great disappointment and we all started crying.”
Germán Burgos, the keeper who had helped take Argentina to the World Cup and then been spurned by Bielsa, got up.
He ought to have turned on Bielsa, given him a mouthful. Instead, he gave him a hug.
“You cannot imagine the anger of someone who has played in all the qualifiers and has then been discarded for the World Cup,” said Diego Simeone.
“Yet he stood up and took the manager in his arms. We were all crying but nobody turned on him. That shows the nobility of the man.”
They returned to the hotel, where a buffet had been laid on. Few felt like eating. They talked until the small hours. Bielsa did not join them.
“To see his suffering and frustration, walking the hotel corridors alone, broke your soul,” said Claudio Caniggia.
In the morning they were desperate to leave, to get out of this World Cup. Bielsa declined to give a farewell press conference, which most managers at a World Cup use to sum up the campaign. Instead, he went for a run.
The first three months after his resignation he spent in a convent in an attempt to detoxify himself from football.
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