Bielsa’s 11th-hour hint breathes unlikely life into Augustin’s fading loan


Where do you start? As the man speaking on behalf of the club most frequently, Marcelo Bielsa has to be the guy leading the narrative on the French striker.

Augustin was the face of Leeds United’s social media channels when he returned to the Thorp Arch pitches with his bleached hair.

Optimism was high. The striker once discussed in the same breath as Kylian Mbappe was back from a hamstring injury and ready to turn the hiatus to his advantage.

In March there was little to no prospect of the RB Leipzig loanee doing anything in the final nine matches, but coronavirus gave him the breathing space he needed to get fit.

On June 10, the first mention of a setback was reported. Club sources stopped short of calling it an injury, but their tone was resigned.

A little over one week later, on June 18, Bielsa faced the media for the first time in 104 days and ruled out any talk of a new injury.

The striker was just doing some individual work away from the training ground. No big deal. Nothing to see here.

The Argentine is yet to make a meal of the Augustin narrative. For a man unafraid of answering at length, Bielsa has not stretched beyond the odd sentence about Augustin since football returned.

The elephant in the room became even more conspicuous when Augustin was omitted entirely from a press release announcing the loan extensions of everyone but him.

Forty-nine minutes on the pitch, a long-term injury, enduring fitness concerns, individual training, a tight programme of matches, a loyal head coach reluctant with changes, expensive wages.

The body of evidence weighted against Augustin’s Elland Road future was, and is, vast, but still Bielsa could not pull the trigger on his West Yorkshire tenure.

June 25. “We are following what he’s doing and after we evaluate what he’s doing we take a decision.”

Bielsa again stopped short of a commitment on Augustin. That’s five days before his loan contract expires. What else can be learned in such a short time frame?

There is no shame in admitting the initial loan deal has not worked. Working under Bielsa without a full pre-season is always going to put you at a disadvantage, especially when you’re competing with one of his favourites before you tear your hamstring.

Few would rant and rage if a line was drawn under the loan deal, the cost of his wages saved, and the entire arrangement revisited once the Whites know what division they will be in next term.

Why is that such a hard announcement to make? In the aftermath of last night’s Luton Town draw, we watched the final minutes of Augustin’s loan tick away, wondering about an 11.59pm announcement.

Of course nothing came, especially when we learned, through a Luton official no less, the Whites technically have until Friday to complete any final paperwork on official contract extensions for the run-in.

When you combine that fact with Bielsa’s latest comments on Augustin, you consider whether more has gone on behind the scenes than he has let on.

LeedsLive understands Augustin was back in full training with Bielsa’s staff at Thorp Arch yesterday. A material sign of progress.

“At the moment I have nothing to inform about this (Augustin’s loan). He was training so far without any problem,” said Bielsa after last night’s draw.

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Even the most romantic of thinkers will know Augustin has a mountain to climb before getting back into that United team, even if his loan were extended.

He would have to complete successive murderball sessions and impress Bielsa sufficiently enough to make the bench, let alone supplant Patrick Bamford or the resurgent Tyler Roberts.

However, where before there was a dark corridor leading to the close season and a long wait on his 20/21 fate, Bielsa now seems to have left a door ajar for Augustin to enter stage left.


World news – GB – Bielsa’s 11th-hour hint breathes unlikely life into Augustin’s fading loan


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