In a little over three weeks’ time, Real Madrid will contest their third successive Champions League final.
Given the margin by which Los Blancos trail Barcelona, and indeed Atletico Madrid, in La Liga, perhaps it is little surprise that the prospect of further European success might not be enough to secure Zinedine Zidane’s job in the long-term.
Throughout the season, widespread reports have linked Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino to the Bernabeu, with Florentino Perez impressed by the Lilywhites’ transformation under the Argentine over the past four years.
“With me or another”
That he has achieved so much – albeit without any silverware to date – on a limited budget makes the former centre-back’s achievements all the more remarkable. Spurs’ most expensive signing remains Davinson Sanchez, who cost £42million, a pittance compared to Real’s most expensive assets. Some of the most influential signings of the new era have been Dele Alli (£5million) and Toby Alderweireld (£11.5million).
Rarely has Pochettino’s commitment to the project in north London been in doubt, until one comment after the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United pricked many fans’ ears up. For the first time, he envisaged the club “with me or another”. While he has since played down that remark, it was one of the first indications that he may be amenable to assessing his options this summer. However, if a move to the Spanish capital is one of those options, it will require some serious thought.
The right time for Pochettino to leave?
Of all the young managers in Europe, Pochettino is among the most deserving of an opportunity at one of the continent’s giants. The question has to be asked, though, whether this is simply the right time in his career.
In its own way, spending can be an artform. Pep Guardiola has not thrown money at Manchester City without some kind of aim, nor were the millions Louis van Gaal invested in his Manchester United side to bear fruition.
In short, managing Tottenham is a very different proposition to managing Real Madrid. After their latest semi-final disappointment, Pochettino appeared burdened by the weight of expectation being placed upon him, and that is at a club that hasn’t won a trophy for 10 years.
Plenty of managers have had their ‘make-or-break’ summer. Before testing the waters at United, David Moyes was well-respected, even revered at Everton. Mark Hughes was making significant progress with Blackburn before departing for Manchester City. Neither of those are comparable with Pochettino, yet all such coaches serve as a cautionary tale of how incredibly quickly stock can fall.
A seminal moment in Spurs’ history
There is also the matter of the Galacticos, so ill-suited to Pochettino’s ethos of team spirit and his exhausting training methods. Difficult characters have been cast aside at Spurs, where he undoubtedly has ultimate authority over his squad. That may not be the case elsewhere.
Even if there has been less tangible progress at Tottenham this season, the feeling remains that they are embarking on a seminal moment in their history as they move into the new stadium. That was a key factor in Diego Simeone staying with Atleti and likewise, there is still work for Pochettino to do in England.
Due to his affiliation with Espanyol, he has already ruled out Barcelona, which makes Madrid the perfect fit for a man who often speaks of Spain as his home. That is not to say it will not be again in the near future, but the impending vacancy at Real, if Zidane does go, may be a step too soon.
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