For many, and particularly for those residing in the realms of North London, what Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur’s Argentinian coach, has achieved in the space of four years is nothing short of astonishing.
When Pochettino arrived at Southampton in 2014, questions were asked and eyebrows were raised. An unproven Premier League entity was given the reigns at a stable, staple top flight club, handpicked from Espanyol and seemingly given the faith and backing of Southampton’s hierarchy.
Pochettino excelled from the outset, instilling a footballing philosophy that reaped considerable rewards on the south coast, though it was not long before Daniel Levy and Tottenham Hotspur’s ears and eyes were alerted to a young, progressive foreign coach operating with impressive efficiency on a modest budget – if you were to ask Levy for a written description of his dream coach back in 2014, Pochettino’s attributes would not have fallen too short. Though there’s one thing in believing you’ve picked the right manager, and another in them proving it.
For Pochettino, embarking on his career in North London, he was tasked with bridging the gap between the chasing pack and the top four. Three successive seasons of Champions League qualification have followed, third, second and third placed finishes too, and all of the aforementioned progress within the financial parameters of a Levy-led regime.
To many, Pochettino and Levy had struck up a romance of commercial competitiveness and domestic success, though just like any romance, there are stumbling blocks, contrasting perspectives and issues to iron out – it’s difficult to pinpoint the assumable gender roles in this Levy/Poch romance, though irrespectively, there are some problems, and the 2018 summer transfer window could well see them coming to the fore.
Pochettino is reportedly set to demand a £150m war-chest from chairman Levy and billionaire owner Joe Lewis, with the likes of Ryan Sessegnon, Wilfried Zaha and Anthony Martial all on his wish-list. The Argentine is aware he will have to sell some players in order to fund the premium players on his transfer list, with Toby Alderweireld, Moussa Dembele, Danny Rose, Fernando Llorente and Moussa Sissoko all potential casualties from the Spurs squad for 2018/19.
If Pochettino is granted the funds he desires, the romance with Levy will surely blossom, as Spurs move into their new stadium, with Champions League football, and having hopefully retained their star assets (Dele, Kane, Eriksen et al). Though if Levy plays hard ball, as he inevitably will, though to an unsavoury extent in the eyes of Pochettino, then the North London romance that once looked so promising could be set to break down – perhaps a cold one-line text message to end it all, engulfed in bitterness and a tinge of regret.
It is a time of indescribable importance for Spurs – they have long been known as the ‘nearly men’, the ‘bottlers’, a club for whom “to Spurs it up” has become a verb of alarming regularity in the English game. Pochettino has begun to dispel the notion that Spurs cannot compete, that this is a club who are incapable of challenging in the upper echelons of domestic and European competition, that Spurs, in fact, are no longer incapable of retaining their star players. This ultimately lies with their Argentinian maestro who, without a doubt, has considerably enhanced his own managerial prospects in the process. In reality, it’s a truly exciting time to be a Tottenham fan, though if Levy is incapable of pleasing his manager, this remarkable chapter in Spurs’ history could be coming to a sudden, abrupt and unsatisfactory end.
Tottenham Hotspur under Pochettino have developed into one of the most exciting, promising projects on the European stage, though most poignantly, the nature and rate of development at Spurs lies with their manager. Pochettino will be all too aware that he ultimately holds the cards on this hand, and just how many chips he is dealt by Levy may dictate whether he goes all in or folds and removes himself from the table of play. For Spurs, they find themselves in a scenario of stick or twist, though failure to pick the right choice and back their manager could cause unprecedented backlash and the departure of their ace of spades. A waiting game indeed, though if ever there was a time for Levy to cough up, it’s now, and not only are Spurs fanbase aware of this, but ultimately Levy himself surely must be too.
Written by Tom Newman.