A week ago no one expected any of us to be pondering Mauricio Pochettino’s future at Tottenham Hotspur. He’d just signed a 5-year contract extension to keep him at the club until 2023. While there was little expectation that he would actually stay until 2023, not many would have guessed he’d potentially be gone within a couple of weeks.
Everything changed for the Argentine when Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane shockingly announced he was leaving Los Blancos, where he has won three Champions League titles in just two and a half seasons, with immediate effect.
Rumours of Pochettino leaving for Madrid
Immediately, rumours began circulating from both England and in Spain linking Pochettino with the vacant position. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, a notoriously difficult negotiator, is in the strongest position, as Florentino Perez begins his pursuit of a new manager. If the Real Madrid president comes knocking on Levy’s door, he will be no doubt be demanding only the highest fees if Tottenham are to release Pochettino from the club.
Just as soon as the rumours of Pochettino leaving for Madrid surfaced, as did the concern that without Pochettino, Tottenham would be in serious trouble. However, with all things considered, maybe now is the perfect time for Pochettino to exit Spurs.
Obviously, the work Pochettino has done with the club has been fantastic. Ever since he took over from tactical genius Tim Sherwood, Tottenham’s position in English football has grown in spades.
When Pochettino took over in 2014, Tottenham had just finished 6th in the league and their record against the top 4 was comparable to that of a relegation threatened side. Losing as heavily as 4-0 and 5-0 against Liverpool, 6-0 and 5-1 to Manchester City and losing both matches against rivals Arsenal 1-0 are now a thing of the past.
Last season, while on their way to 3rd place, Tottenham racked up impressive home victories against other top 4 opponents Liverpool and Manchester United – 4-1 and 2-0 respectively. They were also third in most goals scored and fewest goals conceded.
Tottenham are also now the top side in London and the only side in the city who can offer their fans Champions League football. This is something that before Pochettino arrived would have seemed beyond possible. It had been 22 years since Tottenham had finished above north London rivals Arsenal, but Pochettino broke the Gunners’ streak.
So, when put like that, it makes total sense that Tottenham fans would panic at the thought of their exciting manager would leave. His attacking brand of football is like nothing Tottenham fans can ever remember seeing. His emphasis on youth has been spectacular and with academy product Harry Kane being the front man of Spurs’ attack, it is no wonder Pochettino is so adored by fans.
The most prestigious job in club football
Yet, Madrid beckons. Working for the current European champions is possibly the most prestigious job in club football and a massive step up from Tottenham, no matter how much they’ve improved. Levy will be reluctant to let Pochettino go, even if he commands an enormous fee, but being Real Madrid manager is an opportunity that may never arise again for Pochettino.
But Tottenham might not be in as much trouble as some fans fear if Pochettino does indeed go. With the current state of the managerial market, things might just be opening up perfectly for Tottenham.
While Chelsea stutter in replacing Antonio Conte – who, despite all the talk is still in fact Chelsea manager – there is currently a small window in which Tottenham could get one over the Blues. Chelsea have been linked with Maurizio Sarri – bizarrely still at Napoli despite having already been replaced by Carlo Ancelotti – but have so far refused to pay Napoli the 8-million-euro release clause that is in Sarri’s contract.
However, Sarri would be far better suited to a side like Tottenham than Chelsea. The former champions have been playing a defensive, counter-attacking 3-4-3 – or some slight variant – for the majority of Conte’s reign and under Jose Mourinho beforehand they were playing a similarly defensive strategy.
Sarri to Spurs?
This is totally at odds with Sarri’s own brand of exciting, fast-paced, attacking football that has won the hearts of neutrals during his time at Napoli. Tottenham’s own brand of football under Pochettino would be far easier for Sarri to arrive and tinker with. At Chelsea, a whole squad overhaul would be necessary for the Italian to implement his style with immediate effect. Just how willing Chelsea are to do that remains to be seen, but so far it appears unlikely.
Just as it is from one brand of Mauricio to another it is from one brand of exciting, attacking football to another. Sarri is the natural successor to Pochettino and the change of manager might be the kind of refresh necessary for Tottenham to be able to reach that next level. Pochettino may have brought Spurs as far as he can, but fresh faces breed fresh ideas and if Tottenham don’t strike while the iron is hot they could yet be feeling Sarri for themselves.
Take BetBright’s £10 Million Challenge. BetBright are giving 10 customers a chance to win £10 million by accurately predicting the First Goalscorer, Correct Score, and the Time of the 1st Goal of the 2018 World Cup Final.