Former Athletic Bilbao defender Andoni Iraola has admitted that in Marcelo Bielsa's murderball training games the coach cared only about the physical aspect and concedes the players privately were not huge fans. 

Bielsa holds a high intensity training session which pits eleven versus eleven and is focused on non-stop action. Staff and balls are placed around the pitch to make sure that there are no breathers for the players, with balls constantly pumped into the action. 


Leeds' players have dubbed the sessions murderball and Bielsa also held the drills at his previous clubs, including Athletic Bilbao.

Iraola took part in the sessions at the Basque club and admits that in Spain, the players called the training matches champions games. 

He stressed that Bielsa had no interest in the tactical sides of the game as he focused on the physical aspect, while admitting that privately the players hated the sessions more than they loved them.

"I know what you’re talking about. We called them the ‘champions’ games", Iraola told The Athletic.

"Sometimes they were for players who were playing fewer minutes than others but not always. They were a little bit shorter than a normal game but more demanding.

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"He uses them as a test to see if you’re ready to play or to find your limits.

"He’s especially vocal and demanding in these games and he doesn’t care about the tactical side. The games are just for the physical side.

"We all knew we had to eat a big bowl of rice the night before because he made sure you empty the tank.

"They [the players] would say [privately] they hated it more than they loved it", the former right-back added.

Iraola came through the youth ranks at Athletic Bilbao and made over 500 appearances for the club before closing out his career with a spell in the MLS at New York City.