Mauricio Pochettino’s relationship with Daniel Levy and Tottenham Hotspur has become fairly strained in recent times. The Argentine has been publicly, and far from subtly, decreeing his dissatisfaction with a number of Spurs’ systematic inhibitions.
His comments after the FA Cup semi final defeat to Manchester United last month displayed all of this discord in striking fashion, and he has not backed down in the days since.
After Tottenham’s last game of the season against Leicester City, Pochettino chimed: “Today 100 per cent I feel I am here, but it is important to think that tomorrow all can change, because it’s not in my hands.
“It’s not my decision to be here or not. I depend on my bosses, and it is healthy for myself, the club, and the fans to think you lose your job tomorrow.”
It all sounds pretty disparaging, from a Spurs point of view. Less so from the perspective of all other European clubs, however, especially all those in need of a manager going into next season. Did someone mention Chelsea?
As it turns out, Chelsea mentioned Chelsea, at least if Sky Sports are to be believed. With the Antonio Conte sized hole to be almost ready to be hollowed out, the club are yet again on the lookout for a new man to throw into the notoriously ruthless West London machine.
Step forward Mr Pochettino. The 46 year old has furnished his status as the next up and coming ‘super manager’ by guiding Spurs to three top four finishes in a row – the first to do so since Bill Nicholson’s storied tenure.
The problem, as Poch has alluded to, is progressing beyond this consistency, and actually going on and winning something. This is where the stumbling blocks of investment and ambition arise between the two parties. The same such hurdles do not crop up at Stamford Bridge, however.
Sure, they may capitulate in the season proceeding their triumph, but if there’s one thing Chelsea have proven they can do, it’s win, and win regularly. In the four seasons since Pochettino joined the North London side (on May 27, 2014), the Blues have won two out of the four available Premier League titles, and one League Cup.
To widen the picture, because it’s always worth a reminder, in the time since Tottenham’s last trophy (2008 League Cup), Chelsea have also won three FA Cups, the Champions League, the Europa League and yet one more Premier League title.
As Pochettino has declared: “I think it’s the only way to reach this last level, to not only compete but to win.”
If that’s not winning, I don’t know what is. And herein lies the tactician’s dilemma. Of course Tottenham, with the new White Hart Lane on its way and the prospect of Champions League football once again, are in a strong position – one ostensibly stronger than Chelsea’s.
But with players’ frustrations growing over Levy’s imposed wage frugality, and thus the allure of cash-strapped pastures new becoming ever more present, the Argentinian may have taken this current side as far as they can go.
As he will surely have observed, the transition into a new stadium is never a straightforward process. There are seemingly always teething problems, especially when it’s not ready in time for the start of the season, as it seems will be the case for Spurs in August.
Lying in wait for the tactician in West London, would be a squad crying out for a new direction. As recent history has shown, there is no better time to takeover at Chelsea than after a season of sloppiness. While in the long-term the culture of biennially downing tools may need disbanding, their subsequent wholehearted willingness to embrace a new manager’s methods has got to be appealing.
In ditching Kane, Alli, Eriksen and co (who themselves may ditch, if not this summer, then next) for Abramovich’s Chelsea, Pochettino would be choosing pedigree over potential. Having said that, if you admire how he was able to bring through the youth at Spurs, imagine what he could do with an academy that has won seven of the last nine FA Youth Cups.
Even if Chelsea lose Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois in the summer, you would back the club to replace them with sufficient funding. The same confidence could not be attributed to Tottenham – they have a net spend of £50m during Pochettino’s reign.
Sure, they’re in the Champions League next year, and Chelsea are in the Europa League, but who’s more likely to win their respective European trophy? As a wise man once said: “I think it’s the only way to reach this last level, to not only compete but to win.”
Of course, it’s a privilege to compete in Europe’s premier competition (and the financial rewards aren’t bad either), but after a season in which they were once again so near yet so far, how valuable is that participation when what you need as a club is titles.
In many ways, considering Chelsea’s upcoming move to a new stadium, and the quasi financial restrictions that come with that – as well as the untapped youth system – it would be a similar job to the one he’s had to do at Spurs. The key differences being that he and his players would be paid appropriately, and reinvestment less frowned upon.
In short, Pochettino should heed his own advice by moving to a club where winning is immersed, for better or worse, in the fabric of the club, rather than seen as something intangibly out of reach.