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Leeds and Marcelo Bielsa has been a thrilling love affair - now is the time for couple's therapy, not divorce

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa (left) appears dejected during the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off, Semi Final, Second Leg match at Elland Road, Leeds.
Marcelo Bielsa could leave Leeds after their play-off defeat by Derby Credit: PA

As Marcelo Bielsa crouched down, helpless during the final stages of Leeds' sickening defeat to Derby on Wednesday night, it was tempting to view the moment as the end. 

The end of Leeds's promotion chances for another year, the end of the idea that the manager's challenging ideas could work at this level, the end of the Bielsa experiment. 

In the aftermath of the defeat, suggestions that Bielsa will depart if not given sufficient reassurances by the club's board added to the feeling that a dream had just evaporated into the Yorkshire air. 

Leeds then are at a crossroads, facing possibly their biggest decision since Peter Ridsdale thought: "Can I justify spending £240 of the club's money on goldfish for my office?"

If the Ridsdale years were defined by profligacy, Andrea Radrizzani's era cannot be defined by parsimony. Bielsa has already worked wonders with a meagre transfer budget, but understandably he will not want to carry on if he has to sell players to balance the books. 

Bielsa has got Leeds fans believing again Credit:  Action Images

And though Radrizzani denied reports he would put Leeds up for sale if they have missed out on promotion, the uncertainty about the club's finances is hardly going to help in convincing Bielsa to stay. 

After the season just gone, Leeds must do everything in their power to keep Bielsa. They may have missed out on promotion, but the manager has achieved something even more powerful - he has got the city and the club believing again. 

After years of stagnation and disillusionment, this season has been one of revitalisation. As my colleague Rob Bagchi's excellent special report illustrated, formerly disgruntled supporters are engaged again - a love affair has been rekindled. 

"The style of football is a joy to watch compared with some of the stuff we’ve seen over previous seasons... you see more stickers in cars, more people wearing hats or badges on their coats," one fan told The Telegraph

It hasn't just been the brilliant results, but the way Bielsa has trusted a group of players that had finished mid-table in the Championship the previous season to execute his demanding, high-energy style. That they have been able to carry out his instructions so effectively was testament to Bielsa's motivational and tactical skill. 

As for Bielsa, this summer also presents a conundrum for a manager with a recent history almost as volatile as his current employer. Leeds are his fifth club in five different countries since the start of 2013, a period during which he has not lasted longer in one job more than a couple of years. 

In fact in two of those jobs, Bielsa lasted a total of six months, cementing his reputation as a coach who was too wild and demanding to last for any length of time. There might be success early on, but the players will quickly tire of Bielsa's methods became the conventional wisdom. 

This season at Leeds has upended that theory. Yes, Leeds could not maintain the momentum of the first half of the season, but the players are still fully bought into his philosophy, and were undone by a lack of composure rather than energy in Wednesday's play-off semi-final. 

The supporters meanwhile remain largely in thrall to Bielsa. Where some of his previous clubs have quickly turned on his eccentric methods, Leeds have delighted in his exceptionalism. The chemistry has been such that there is a sense of kindred spirits meeting, of two outsiders finding one another after a series of failed romances. 

In sport, as in life, these couplings are rare. Leeds must ensure Bielsa was no fling; this should be a story that is only just beginning.