It was December 2015 when a very innocuous but now very infamous tweet was made from a then Swansea City director that simply said “Hola” and it was assumed that this meant that Huw Jenkins’ trip to South America was to prove successful and Marcelo Bielsa was about to be crowned the new manager of Swansea City.
It was shortly after the sacking of Garry Monk with the Swans struggling in the Premier League and Jenkins was in South America with Martin Morgan. It was believed that the pair were working to secure the signature of Bielsa to lead what was hoped to be a surge up the league table and away from the relegation battle.
Back in Wales, club director Huw Cooze simply entered a tweet to say “Hola” and the rest has become legend. Speculation was rife. Had Bielsa agreed terms? Was he coming back with Jenkins and Morgan? Who was he bringing with him? It was an excitement level that was close to matching that seen when Michael Laudrup first arrived in South Wales.
Maybe something was lost in time difference or maybe our parties in South America ans Swansea had a breakdown in communication but Bielsa never arrived and it was around a month later that Francesco Guidolin arrived to lead what was eventually a successful fight against relegation.
Fast forward now almost five years later and a Pablo Hernandez goal at the Liberty has pushed Bielsa and his Leeds side to the verge of the Premier League. After last week’s win over Stoke City the manager was lauded for the style in which his team plays and the high tempo that they create when they are on the pitch.
So what if – after that night – Hola had really meant hello to Bielsa and we had appointed a man who is respected throughout football for his coaching skills. We know it would have meant life would never have been dull but would it have changed our Premier League direction at that point in time?
Guidolin kept us in the Premier League but Jenkins admitted he should never have extended his contract whilst Clement did the same thing after him but the football wasn’t pretty at the best of times. And the less said about Bob Bradley in the middle the better. I think it is fair to say that none of those three appointments would have happened had Bielsa been given the chance to rebuild after the damage caused by Garry Monk’s partial dismantling of ‘the Swansea way’.
We will never know what happened between the Hola tweet and the return to South Wales of our directors but speculation will also be that Bielsa was a financial stretch too far for a group of people who were already in discussions to sell the club. Was it a football or financial decision that made ‘hola’ become ‘adios’? However, I do believe having watched his success over the last two seasons with Leeeds (just 18 defeats in 97 games) suggests that he could have got more out of a side that still had plenty of talent than any of Guidolin, Bradley or Clement.
Of course we could still have ended up being relegated and maybe Bielsa and Swansea would not have been the fit that romanticism now suggests that it could be but I don’t imagine there are too many Swans fans out there who wouldn’t like to have least witnessed us finding out.