“From the day that I left the club, my dream is again one day to be back and to try to finish the work that we didn’t finish”
Tottenham have handled their break up with Mauricio Pochettino terribly. Straight after he was out the door, they immediately made a move for José Mourinho, the bad boy who they never thought they had a chance with and probably knew would end in disaster but, my goodness, wasn’t it all so exciting?
With that disastrous fling come and gone, Daniel Levy has since detailed who he is targeting for the next successor; a dynamic, progressive and attacking-based tactician. The awkward thing is that is sounds very much like someone familiar.
Pochettino, on the other hand, has managed his break-up much more gracefully. Taking a break for almost a year to get his energy and motivation back seemed to be exactly what was needed for a man who looked exhausted at the end of his tenure at Spurs. Nobody at the time disagreed that it was time for him to part ways with the club but looking back now there’s a niggling feeling they might have done better in sticking it out.
Since his return to football, he’s got himself a cushy job at PSG, one of Europe’s elite clubs, breaking his trophy duck twice and narrowly missing out on winning Ligue 1. With no transfers of his own and only half a season to implement his ideas he can hardly be to blame for coming second to an impressive Lille.
But all has not been rosy in the City of Love. Pochettino has been noticeably more reserved on the sideline and more cautious in his press conferences. Despite his ability to speak French at a decent level, he has chosen an interpreter from his native Spanish, not dissimilar to his situation at Southampton. This could suggest he’s still feeling out the French press and PSG faithful, unaware of his position and not entirely trusting of what he might say. He still doesn’t seem entirely comfortable.
Reports broke this week of a meeting with Pochettino and Levy that came as a surprise to most. Tottenham had been narrowing down a shortlist of potential new managers for the last few weeks with the most prominent names being Erik ten Hag of Ajax and Brighton’s Graham Potter, both progressive coaches and within the Pochettino mould that Levy originally set out.
But why buy a copy when you can just get the real thing? It’s been suggested that Pochettino could be swayed back to Spurs, where the fans adore and respect him. He’s not on the best terms with the PSG hierarchy and finding life more difficult than he originally hoped when he joined the club. A return to his beloved Tottenham would certainly curry favour with Spurs fans if Levy could pull it off. But is it a good deal for the Argentine?
When Pochettino first arrived in North London, a rebuild was set in place. Players like Eric Dier, Ryan Mason and Harry Kane led the rebrand from an underwhelming and underperforming team to a young and exciting prospect of a club. Within a season, Spurs were climbing up the table rapidly, playing football that matched the intensity and fluidity of Harry Redknapp’s 2010/11 side but with more of a backbone, something Tottenham had lacked for decades.
In 2019, Spurs made the Champions League final against all odds, but it was that steeliness that got them there. That never-say-die attitude completely exemplified the players that Pochettino nurtured. That took the best part of six years to create and was no easy task.
Now, Tottenham’s backbone has been smashed. Players that should have left seasons ago are still trudging around the first team and their best player is desperate to leave. In a way, they are worse off now than when Pochettino arrived the first time. Most of the issues we see currently in the squad are a direct result of Levy’s refusal to give Pochettino the players he wanted and the investment he begged for after the Champions League final.
If Pochettino is to return, he will need a very long list of demands. Top of the list must be full financial backing. This is a now or never summer for the club and could genuinely catapult them out of the top 6 for the foreseeable future if investment is not spot on. If Levy wants to avoid this, giving full backing for transfers is an absolute must.
What Pochettino must ask himself is does he really want to take a step back and help rebuild a club that turned their back on him? A club that binned him off for an Amazon documentary and a washed up “winner”? His managerial career has been on the up since it started and now that he is at PSG, surely he should be afforded the luxury of more attractive jobs.
But the fact is that Mauricio Pochettino is not a coach that thrives in finished projects. He thrives in the rebuild. The promise of creating something new and natural amongst a sterile environment of big, financially doped clubs is where he feels most comfortable. “That was amazing to have the possibility to feel free to create something special in Tottenham” He said last year. At PSG, his orders were to win everything with the team he has and that’s not how he works. He’s a romantic, not a cynic. His projects take years and bigger clubs just don’t have that time.
Pochettino and Spurs worked out so well because it was his project, his rebuild. After some time, the club lost sight of that and the new stadium and Champions League final just got in the way of his true vision: to cement Tottenham as a consistent title challenger. Since he’s left, the club has lost its way even more and he is the man that would help bring fans, players and board together.
When a relationship is reignited, those within it always promise to change. If this is going to work a second time around whether that be this summer or beyond, Daniel Levy must change. He must give Pochettino what he wants: trust, patience and financial backing. Maybe then, love will be in the air of North London once again.