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Tony Pulis to Athletic Bilbao - Really?

Is Athletic Bilbao a viable option for Tony Pulis as he looks to rebuild his reputation?

National newspaper reports have suggested that recently ousted Stoke manager Tony Pulis will be looking to put himself forward for the Athletic Bilbao job, now that the position has been vacated by Argentinian manager Marcelo Bielsa.

Despite the 55-year-old’s success with the Potters during his seven year stint at the club, there was a unified opinion from fans that his style of play lacked any sophistication or prowess. Securing Stoke in the Premier League, an FA Cup final and Europa League football couldn’t placate the paying spectators.

It is thought that a move to Bilbao would help the Welshman develop new management skills and adopt a new playing style, helping him regain his reputation on the continent, before a move back to England and hopefully a new job in the Premier League.

However, this idea is going to be particularly hard to sell to Los Leones fans who have become more accustomed to the ingenuity and charismatic football that outgoing manager Bielsa brought to the club almost two years ago.

Marcelo Bielsa had just finished his journey as Chilean national coach and came on a wave of adulation, having managed to get La Roja to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa (their first appearance at the competition in the 21st century) and becoming a national hero in the South American country.

His imagination and creativity, especially with tactics, was welcomed at Athletic Bilbao and in his first season he took them on an incredible run in Europe. They reached the final of the Europa League, slaying Lokomotiv Moscow, Manchester United, Schalke and Sporting Lisbon on their way, before succumbing to a 3-0 defeat in the final against Atletico Madrid.

Bielsa also managed to match a tenth place finish in La Liga with an appearance in the final of that year’s Copa del Rey where they faced Barcelona, unfortunately going on to lose 3-0 to the Catalan club. His achievements that season led Barcelona manager Pep Gaurdiola to state he was “the best manager in the world” and Athletic Bilbao striker, Fernando Llorente, say that he was a “genius”.

Unfortunately for Pulis, no comments from Gaurdiola were forthcoming. He was lambasted in the British press and by football fans all over the country for his direct play and long ball tactics (which you could argue was hardly an affliction just his Stoke team suffered from) and stories regularly leaked out of the dressing room about confrontations with players.

There is not any doubt that Pulis would like another opportunity to manage again and earn back the reputation he glowed with when he got Stoke promoted, but the possibility of joining Athletic Bilbao look slim.

The fans in northern Spain have been spoilt with much finer delicacies, and may find the baggage the Welshman would arrive with too hard to swallow.

image: © birasuegi

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