GUESS WHO'S BACK: WILL POCHETTINO RETURN TO SPURS?
The usual suggestion in football is that players and managers ‘should never go back’, but according to recent reports that’s exactly what Mauricio Pochettino is considering.
It was only in November 2019 that the now Paris Saint-Germain was dismissed as Tottenham boss while the North London side sat 14th in the Premier League table.
Only six months before his dismissal, Pochettino had taken Spurs to their first ever Champions League final as Tottenham appeared to finally be establishing themselves as genuine domestic and European threats.
The appointment of serial winner Jose Mourinho suggested a belief that Tottenham were now focused on winning a trophy, but now that the Portuguese has also left the club with the cabinet still empty, why head back to Pochettino?
It’s safe to say other than his final season where he was dismissed after only 12 games, Pochettino guaranteed Tottenham at least Europa League football and more often than not the Champions League.
With an average points per game of 1.81 across his spell in North London, Pochettino’s record was better than Mourinho (1.65), Harry Redknapp (1.73) and Andre Villas-Boas (1.79) so there is certainly evidence to justify his return.
For Spurs fans another second-place finish like that of the 2016-17 campaign would be nothing more than a dream, but before his dismissal there was always a genuine belief that Tottenham could push the likes of Liverpool or Manchester City.
But there are question marks over how the players would react to Pochettino’s return, with performances towards the end of his tenure seeming to lack the effort and desire of a side fighting for their manager’s job.
His training sessions are known to be intense and his high pressing style of play demanding, but after 18 months of being coached by Mourinho would the players be ready to play for Pochettino once more?
The squad has had limited turnover in the 18 months since he left, with the main absentee Christian Eriksen and the additions of Matt Doherty and Emile-Hojberg.
But whoever takes on the role will have to deal with the situation surrounding England captain Harry Kane and I’m not sure the return of Pochettino would be enough to convince him to stay.
Although he hasn’t outrightly said he wants to leave Spurs, it is clear from the interview with Gary Neville and other reports, Kane has a desire to win trophies and that feels a million miles away for Spurs.
Tottenham were a lot more competitive when the Argentine was coach, but still fell short either in finals or in their title charges.
The further truth is that the fight for Europe and Premier League titles has become so much more difficult over the last few years, with Leicester City consistently forcing their way into the top four, Manchester United becoming strong once more and surprise packages akin to West Ham this year.
Surprisingly the 86 points that Spurs notched in the 2016-17 season would’ve put them level with Manchester City this season, but I think it’s fair to say that getting points has become harder due to the strength of the mid table teams.
Pochettino and Kane certainly got on and had great success with one another but without winning silverware I don’t believe it will be enough to make Kane want to remain in north London and this Tottenham side are not as good as the one they came close with previously.
The debate around whether anyone can afford him and whether he will leave is one that will rumble on all summer no matter who is appointed.
But if Kane were to leave it may well put Pochettino in a similar rebuilding state that he entered the first time at White Hart Lane, where he put faith in the likes of Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier and was rewarded for his trust.
However, the one team not really discussed when speculating on Pochettino’s future is that of his current employer PSG and how it would affect them.
It would have been a disappointing first season in the French capital having missed out on Ligue 1, but the Argentine only took charge in January.
When he was appointed following Thomas Tuchel’s dismissal PSG were sat third in Ligue 1 and one point behind eventual champions Lille and ‘Poch’ won 15 of his 21 league matches in charge.
His four defeats since January are more than PSG had throughout the entirety of the Covid-19 disrupted 2019/20 season, where they played 27 games.
Although it would be unideal that the French side lost their manager after so few games in charge, it certainly feels like the right time to be looking for a manager around Europe, with Juventus and Real Madrid both needing a new boss at the time of writing.
With some reports suggesting that Zinadine Zidane is looking for an immediate return to management having left the Santiago Bernabeu for the second time, he seems like the same profile to fit the Parisians stature, as well as someone with plenty of Champions League winning experience.
He is also an admirer of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe having repeatedly been linked with bringing both to Real Madrid over the last years, which could see him fit well.
Antonio Conte is also now available having left Inter Milan after winning their first title in a decade and could certainly be a person of interest as he has a record of success wherever he goes.
If Pochettino does return to North London there will be no shortage of options for sleeping European giant, but it will also end Pochettino’s opportunities for success there before they had even really begun.
It’s a move that seems to have come out of nowhere and somehow makes no sense and perfect sense for every party involved, but by no means guarantees Tottenham, PSG, or Kane future to be a successful one.