(Photo Credits: Chelsea FC Latest News)
Step aside Messi and Ronaldo, there is a new name on the wishlist of two of the biggest clubs in world football – Mauricio Roberto PochettinoTrossero. Both Manchester United and Real Madrid sacked the managers they started the season with in Jose Mourinho and Julen Lopetegui respectively.
Furthermore, both clubs hired interim managers to see through until the end of the season.
United brought in a club legend in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to steady the ship while Madrid promoted their B team coach, Santiago Solari.
However, the real summer managerial target of both clubs is the current Tottenham manager Pochettino.
In an age where the sport is dominated by the financial impact of every move, it is something of an anomaly to see two financial behemoths divert all their resources for Pochettino. After all, the Argentine has won a sum total of zero trophies in his managerial career so far, one of the reasons which saw the Glazers opt for Mourinho ahead of the Spurs man back in 2016.
However, it is a different situation now, with Pochettino only enhancing his reputation since then. The Argentine spent most of his career at Spanish side Espanyol, Barcelona’s local rival, after kick-starting his career in the dugout at the same club in 2009.
His first match as a manager pit him against Pep Guardiola’s legendary Barcelona side. That match gave the first glimpse at Pochettino’s preferred style – high pressing and one-on-one defending all over the pitch. The match ended in a 0-0 draw and was followed by Espanyol’s first league win at Camp Nou in 27 years during the season.
After revolutionizing the entire club setup, setting up a philosophy across all levels and setting up a clear pathway from the academy to the first team, Pochettino moved to the English shores in January 2013. He took over Southampton,another club with a superb supply line from the academy.
Shift to England
In his only full season at St. Mary’s, Pochettino led the Saints to eighth place in the Premier League, the club’s highest since 2002-03. The gaffer’s rigorous style led to memorable wins over Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea among others. No wonder, Tottenham snapped him up in the summer of 2014.
The Argentine truly came to life at North London as he proved to be a perfect match for the club. At the time of his arrival, Spurs remained in the shadows of their local rivals, Arsenal, and were never real title contenders, despite staying in and around the top four in the league.
Further, the London club had lost two of their best players in Luka Modric and Gareth Bale to Real Madrid and the general mood around the club was low. As a result, Pochettino was given time to implement his methods, which he did to great effect.
Spurs finished fifth in Pochettino’s debut season before they went up a gear in the 2015/16 season. Labelled as genuine title contenders for once, the Londoners lost the title race to Leicester City and slumped towards the end to let Arsenal finish second ahead of them.
However, they rebounded with an 86-point haul in the 2016/17 season to finish second, their highest-ever points tally in the Premier League era. This was followed by another third-placed finish in the 2017/18 season as Spurs became one of the best teams in the country with consistent finishes.
This season, Pochettino has successfully navigated post-World Cup fatigue of his players and zero summer signings due to new stadium construction to stay in title contention along with the favourites Manchester City and Liverpool.
Further, Pochettino made Spurs a force in Europe as they beat the likes of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund over the past few years.
Style & Philosophy
While his exploits definitely earned plaudits, it is his philosophy which set him up in the upper echelons of current managers. Working on a much smaller budget than the rest of the top six, Pochettino continues to emphasise on building a close-knit team and promoting young players.
Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Harry Winks all came through the system while the gaffer turned the likes of Christian Eriksen, Heung-Min Son, Kieran Trippier and Jan Vertonghen into world-beaters.
It is this world-class coaching ability coupled with the knack of maximising resources which put Pochettino on the wanted-list of Madrid and United. Both clubs offer bigger projects, possess winning histories and will not hesitate to splash the cash, unlike Tottenham.
Pochettino’s meal-date with Sir Alex Ferguson fuelled speculations over a potential move back in 2016. However, the United board went for Mourinho’s charisma and winning history – and it ended on a sour note.
After three failed managers, the storied club wants a manager who will imbibe a strong style of play, continue the club’s tradition of promoting youth and become a title-winning force once again. No one fits the billing better than Pochettino.
His excellent track record in promoting English players could endear him further to the Red Devils. Furthermore, he will be able to compete in the transfer market on the same table as other Premier League heavyweights for once.
However, the United hotseat is a double-edged sword. While the opportunity is definitely there, the boardroom politics, club vice-chairman Ed Woodward’s lack of football acumen and the immense pressure to get back to winning ways might not afford Pochettino the time he needs.
Nevertheless, that risk comes with the nature of the job and it could prove to be the defining chapter in Pochettino’s legacy.
Pochettino has never shied away from explicitly stating his desire to coach Real Madrid. His Espanyol roots mean he does not want to coach Barcelona, a factor which Real Madrid supremo Florentino Perez will savour.
While Los Blancos have been tremendously successful in Europe under Zinedine Zidane, they have mostly struggled in the La Liga. With Perez looking to recreate the dominant sides of the late 1980s, Pochettino could prove to be the right choice.
Madrid are already stockpiling several youngsters over the last few years with Manchester City’s Brahim Diaz the latest one to join the likes of Vinicius Junior at the Bernabeu. Further, the current team has reached the end of its cycle as well.
Thus, Pochettino can revive the Madrid giants, build a seamless transition from academy to the first-team while fulfilling his own dream of managing Real Madrid.
However, he might not get enough time at the helm at Madrid either, with the pressure to succeed quickly. This will be a recurring theme for the Argentine at any big club he goes to next.
Both destinations possess the lure and provide Pochettino with a genuine chance of winning trophies. While he might not have the same control or time like he does at Spurs, he definitely gets a shot to write a telling chapter.
Therefore, the tug of war will continue until the summer as both clubs try to convince their prime managerial target. Meanwhile, Daniel Levy’s will have a tougher job at hand to convince his team’s manager that glory can be achieved at North London itself.
The new five-year contract worth £8.5 million-a-year signed last summer definitely gives Levy negotiating space. However, the hue and cry for success around Manchester and Madrid are at a high point, which could see neither club hesitate to pay the biggest sum for signing a manager in football history.
At this point, few will doubt that Mauricio Pochettino is worth is.