Marcelo Bielsa is ready to consider an offer to extend his stay at Leeds, but gave no guarantees over his future after his side’s play-off heartbreak.
Leeds, top of the table with nine games of the regular season left, missed out on a top-two finish and blew a second chance of promotion by losing 4-3 on aggregate to Derby in their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final.
Bielsa and Leeds have in place a three-year agreement, which gives the club the option of extending his contract at the end of each season for another 12 months.
The agreement allows for Bielsa to leave, should he choose, at the end of each year, with clauses in place to protect Leeds if he took charge at another club.
Had Leeds gone on to end their 15-year Premier League exile, it is fair to assume there would have been no issues over activating another season.
But having won the first leg 1-0, a 4-2 second-leg defeat on a whirlwind night at Elland Road has left Leeds fans on tenterhooks over whether the 63-year-old Argentinian will be in charge in August.
“As you can imagine, it’s not convenient to talk about this right now,” Bielsa said after his side’s numbing defeat.
“This process, you know about it, is that if the club offers me the possibility to carry on I will listen to their proposal.”
Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani must convince the former Argentina and Chile boss that the club’s finances are in place for another promotion challenge.
Radrizzani has committed to further improvements at Leeds’ Thorp Arch training ground, while Bielsa will seek assurances that funds will be available for him to strengthen his squad.
His current players have arguably over-achieved this season. A squad comprised mainly of the same personnel finished 14th in 2017/18.
“You just have to accept the pain,” he said. “I feel very sad first of all for the players.
“I don’t think that there’s someone who feels more pain than our players.
“It’s never good to compare pains. But for me it’s hard to believe someone is suffering more than my players.”
Leeds appeared on course for their first play-off success at the fifth attempt when Stuart Dallas put them 1-0 up on the night and 2-0 on aggregate after Kemar Roofe’s solitary goal in the first leg.
But Jack Marriott pounced on a defensive mix-up moments after stepping off the bench just before half-time and quickfire goals from Mason Mount and Harry Wilson, from the penalty spot, turned the tie on its head.
Dallas was on target again to haul Leeds level at 3-3 on aggregate before Marriott struck his second and the killer blow in the 85th minute.
“I also feel sad for the pain of the fans because I know it’s a big pain,” Bielsa added.
“This is a responsibility that I have to assume. And it’s very difficult for a head coach to assimilate the deception of all these people, especially when I make two conclusions.
“Firstly about the difficulties this team overcame and also the results this team has reached.
“It might make us think that this team reached a point which was higher than we thought they could be, but that isn’t true.
“The team deserved to finish first or second and we had the conditions and the skills to win the play-offs.”