Described by the Argentine press as a "football obsessive", he was said to be "informed, meticulous and organised in the extreme".
There is no doubt that he has benefited from the team created by Passarella, and many of the same faces that featured in France four years ago starred in qualification this time around.
But despite the talent available, the Argentina squad is not the easiest to handle for a relatively low-profile manger.
The majority of the squad play at Europe's most glamorous clubs and only rarely return to Argentina.
But Bielsa has not been afraid to take difficult decisions, leaving out the talismanic Gabriel Batistuta during qualifying in preference to Hernan Crespo.
His refusal to rely solely on the biggest of the star players at his disposal has fostered a team spirit that has not always been in evidence with Argentina sides.
"There is no Maradona in this team but we all help each other, and that's why we are so powerful," said Juan Sebastien Veron.
It took some time, but when Argentina qualified for Korea and Japan with four games to spare, the press and public alike were finally convinced by their team.
A 2-1 victory over Brazil last September left the home fans signing Bielsa's name for the first time.