Marcelo Bielsa has assured Leeds fans there is no problem between him and Kalvin Phillips after the England midfielder was substituted in Saturday’s draw at Brighton.
Bielsa said Phillips’ status as a Leeds “idol” was “completely deserved” and insisted his decision to replace him at half-time was for the good of the team.
“That doesn’t mean I was correct, but I did what I thought was best,” said Bielsa.
“But in no way does that mean that there’s a difficulty with anyone.
“It’s never good for a player or for a team to think that the positions are immovable and that the hierarchies that are within a team can’t be altered ever.”
Football pundits Jamie Redknapp and Tim Sherwood suggested after Leeds’ poor team display at Brighton that all was not well between Bielsa and one of his star players.
Bielsa responded by saying Phillips had earned his status among Leeds fans and everyone at the club had a duty to preserve this relationship.
“Kalvin Phillips is an idol for the Leeds United fans, he’s a popular property with a lot of affection and we all have the obligation to look after the feeling that unites a fan with a team,” Bielsa added.
“He opted to stay with Leeds when he could have left when we were in the Championship. He cleared up what his position was when asked about moving to the best teams in the Premier League, saying sincerely he wouldn’t accept any offers.
“So what I’m saying is due to his performances and his position, with respect to his club Leeds, the position Kalvin occupies is completely deserved.”
Leeds are bidding for a morale-boosting home win against Crystal Palace on Tuesday after another puzzling below-par display at Brighton.
Bielsa acknowledged his players’ running statistics had dropped compared to last season, but that the physical level throughout the Premier League had declined.
“What is clear, the calendar is so overcharged it doesn’t bear in mind the development of the preparation,” he added.
“That’s why I have serious doubts over the future of professional football because it is constantly commercialised and the product every time is constantly worse.”
Patrick Bamford (ankle) and Luke Ayling (knee) are both hoping a run out with the under-23s on Monday can edge them closer to a first-team return, while Bielsa has no new injury concerns.
Leeds, one place and three points above the relegation zone, face successive home games – they play Brentford at Elland Road on Sunday – before a daunting run over the Christmas period.
Bielsa’s side will complete their 2021 fixtures against Chelsea (away), Manchester City (away), Arsenal (home), Liverpool (away) and Aston Villa (home).