Pep Guardiola surrogate and retired Barcelona superstar Xavi recently linked Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli with Manchester City. You might have heard about that. It’s by no means the first rumor linking Spurs’ 21-year old star away from White Hart Lane, but it is one of the weirder ones: Xavi, who played with Guardiola at Barca, called the two time PFA Young Player of the Year Alli “a very special player” and suggested that the City boss was ready to make a huge bid for Alli this summer.
“Technically he is the sort of player that Pep likes, the sort of player that suits the style of game that Pep likes his teams to play. I am sure it is not going to be a player that Tottenham will want to let go, but we know Manchester City have big resources.”
That was enough to shake a few trees in bat country. Aren’t transfer rumors fun? Obviously, this isn’t much of a story, as Alli is certainly the kind of player who is going to attract a lot of attention in the coming months and years. And if you think Daniel Levy is going to sell one of his prime assets for anything less than an absolutely ludicrous sum of money, well.
However, this being the English media, naturally Pochettino was asked about Xavi’s comments, and Poch responded with his Argentinian tongue planted firmly in cheek, referencing his own history as a player and manager at Espanyol, sworn rivals of Barca.
“He’s in a period when he loves to talk, he’s in Doha [playing for Al Sadd] and listen, he was Barcelona player, he’s my enemy. He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona - player, fans, you know.
“I know [Xavi] very well, I played against him a lot and when I was a manager [at Espanyol]...
[Extended story about Xavi cheating in a match]
“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”
Poch was reportedly grinning while relaying this anecdote about Xavi, but he was very serious when discussing Tottenham’s transfer policy this summer, saying that Spurs will only sell players if they want to do so, and if they think it will benefit the club.
"I think because we are doing good things, the club with a lot of potential are focused on our players, on our talented players. But it is important, I told you, because my relationship with Daniel Levy is so close -- so far... you know the relationship between chairman and manager can change in a moment! [laughs]
"The good thing is we have the plan to try to improve. And we will deliver it when we finish the season. Like I told you, the players that we want to keep, we will keep.
"Because [Levy] said to me, 'We don't need money.' If we sell some players it is because we want to sell some players. We will sell players because of the players we want to sign. For our fans, it is so clear that all the decisions we take are for the reason to try to improve the team, try to be more competitive next season."
Oh sure, some club is almost certainly going to test Pochettino and Levy’s resolve in the near future by backing a dump truck full of money up to White Hart Lane, whether that be for Alli, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, or Christian Eriksen, all of whom have been linked in the media with “bigger” clubs. (Refreshingly, there are no Harry Kane rumors in the media — that ship has apparently sailed, at least for now).
But as mentioned before, Spurs are in a great position after last summer’s contract renew-a-thon, with its core players all locked up for at least two years and maybe longer. That puts Spurs in a firm negotiating position in the transfer market.
Xavi’s a great player and can say what he wants, but a former Barcelona star won’t have a whole lot of sway when it comes to whether or not Spurs hold onto their best players. That decision comes down to the player, Pochettino, and Levy. As it should.