Mauricio Pochettino is a well known manager. His style of play is perhaps his current claim to fame. His history as a player has been well documented. His candid remarks have become part of his personality as one of the Premier League’s more recognizable current bosses. What Pochettino was like outside of football, though, remained unknown.
In Brave New World, Guillem Balague provides the answer to that question after only 12 pages. Simply put, there is no Mauricio Pochettino without football. Outside of a wine obsession that influenced Pochettino’s move to Bordeaux in 2003 and a love for poetry, there are not many parts of the man that exist outside of the sport. “Football has made me who I am and who we are as a family,” Pochettino says in the first chapter of Brave New World. “It’s what we wanted and what we chose to be. The ball has to be our travelling companion.”
The book catalogs the life story of Pochettino, a tale of a man and his travelling companion and the places they go. The story is primarily consists of diary like entries of the 2016-17 season, with Pochettino filling in the rest with the book with anecdotes from his life. Over the course of the first person account, Pochettino explains his philosophy on running a successful team and living a fulfilling life. From drilling his players during preseason to an appreciation for poetry, Pochettino does not just share stories; he shares his way of thinking.
Pochettino mostly provides explanations like it is advice, his preferences and methods very particular. For example, he likes to test players who are not performing well in training by seeing how they react to news that they will not be included in the squad for the next match. Pochettino singled out a discussion with Georges-Kévin N’Koudou, and then expressed disappointment at the player’s reaction. “N’Koudou turned up at the stadium wearing a backpack and headphones, which he didn’t take off until just before kick-off,” Pochettino said. “I took him to task: it’s a matter of respect for his teammates, who were preparing for battle.” This leads Pochettino to descibe N’Koudou as a player who takes himself out of contention to play.
Excerpts like that provide the drama that books from the point of view of players and coaches make headlines for for, though that is genuinely a smaller part of the story.
Brave New World is perhaps the greatest platform for Pochettino to go all in on his eccentricities, like what he believes is a scientific ability to sense auras, a phenomenon he calls “universal energy.” As the Tottenham manager, he has never attempted to hide them, but they have flown under the radar regardless. However, for all of the wild things that the coach shares with his audience -- and there is quite a lot -- the book is not just about a bizarre man. Pochettino is a very sensitive person, something his wife, Karina Grippaldi, points out in her foreword. He himself makes that clear from the very beginning, as a note written by Pochettino in Spanish is the first thing the reader sees, even before the cover page. He ends the note by saying, “football is, or feels at least to me, a context of emotions.”
It is telling that the official beginning of Brave New World comes at the end of the 2015-16 season, with the 5-1 loss at Newcastle. Though Pochettino’s general post match comments frequently focus on the performance of his players, as they did in the team’s recent loss to Leicester, the man is more introspective than he lets on. He opens his first chapter questioning the events at St James’ Park, before saying, “It was all my fault. I did something wrong.”
While the ghosts and lessons of Newcastle away at the end of 2015-16 are Pochettino’s way of telling the story of 2016-17, they also provide further context into studying the person he is. In an age where the visionary manager is dominant, Brave New World is the perfect addition to the global discourse of how those brains work. Here, Pochettino breaks down every detail of his life, providing insights in each paragraph. Partly because of the access Pochettino gives Balague and partly because of the man himself, it is an more than just an entertaining read. It is one of the more comprehensive looks at a type of man that fits the current definition of a person consumed by football.
Editor’s note: Cartilage Free Captain was provided a complimentary copy of “Brave New World” by the Orion Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.