Marcelo Bielsa favorite to become Bournemouth’s next manager

Bournemouth‘s long, hot race for the vacant permanent manager’s job ended in a shootout between former Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa and current goalkeeper Gary O’Neil, with the veteran Argentine now the favourite.

Bielsa, 67, with 13 previous senior football jobs in seven countries in 40 years as a coach, is the favorite for the job. He has been talking for a few weeks with the potential new owners of the club led by Bill Foley, 77, an American investor who is chairman of Fidelity National Financial, a major American insurance company, and whose value is estimated at 1 billion of dollars.

Bielsa is the obvious eye-catching choice for the new ownership with his strong supporters among the fans and some high-profile coaches for his development of a style of play and coaching that many others have borrowed. A decision is expected to be made shortly after Saturday’s game at Vitality Stadium.

Technical Director Richard Hughes and General Manager Neill Blake were in Las Vegas this week. Both are expected to stay after the takeover, along with ex-Bournemouth player and now Hughes assistant Simon Francis.

There are no other external candidates on the shortlist. The other candidate, O’Neil, 39, presented a compelling case. Having taken over on August 31, he was undefeated in their first six games, with two victories among them. After that, a run of four defeats put pressure on the club, now 17th in the Premier League. Even so, in the last two league defeats, to Leeds and Tottenham Hotspur, they have scored five goals over the two games.

These signs of life demonstrated that the team has what it takes to survive in the Premier League despite a dismal start under Scott Parker. The 4-1 victory over Everton in the League Cup in midweek was a return to winning form for O’Neil. He only joined the club in January last year to assist his former team-mate Jonathan Woodgate, then himself in charge of the interim. Previously, he was a highly regarded Liverpool academy coach.

O’Neil has the advantage of knowing the players well. He is popular with his team and his own knowledge of the English game runs deep, thanks to a 20-year playing career in the top two leagues. He would be able to head into the World Cup break with time for intensive player training and then, with Foley in charge by January, hope to add new players in the window.

Bournemouth had considered Kjetil Knutsen, the current manager of Norwegian champions Bodo/Glimt, but that interest has since cooled.

Bielsa’s reputation is considerable, most recently at Leeds, his only job so far in English football where he brought the team back to the Premier League after a 16-year absence. They finished ninth the following year and he was sacked in February last season following a drop in results.

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