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Chelsea’s Morata rejected move to Tottenham because he feared he couldn’t compete with Harry Kane

Pochettino admits signings are necessary to keep his stars from stagnating, but is struggling to find talented players willing to be understudies.

Hull City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

If you believe Harry Redknapp, Tottenham Hotspur have had a number of high profile near misses in recent years. Redknapp claimed that he was close to signing both Luis Suarez and Eden Hazard when he was Spurs’ manager, and has claimed interest in numerous other players that went on to have successful careers at other clubs.

Now, in comments printed in the Guardian, Mauricio Pochettino has admitted that Chelsea’s £58m summer striker signing Alvaro Morata had been in contact with the Spurs manager before this season, but he rejected a potential move to Tottenham because he was afraid he couldn’t hang with Harry Kane.

“Morata talked about myself, in the media – he said: ‘Mauricio called me,’” Pochettino said. “That was from the beginning, two years ago or more. He said to me: ‘Why do you want me if you have Harry Kane?’ You know, if you go to try to sign a striker, they will say: ‘Eh, gaffer, you want me for what? To be on the bench?”

Pochettino’s comments about Morata rejecting his overtures is perhaps the most succinct summation of the dilemma he and Spurs chairman Daniel Levy face in this summer’s transfer window. Tottenham face a double dilemma: they can’t compete with the likes of the Manchester clubs and Chelsea for the best players, but their current stars are good enough that it’s difficult to convince signings to come and be understudies to Harry Kane, Dele Alli, and Christian Eriksen.

Still, Pochettino said that he understands his team needs to sign players to be competitive in this season’s Premier League season, and that he expects that Spurs will leap into action here before the window closes.

“How have Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and different clubs tried to improve their season? Bringing players and trying to put more pressure on their star players, their key players – and for us we need to do that too...

“We are finding the balance because now is the moment to maybe refresh the team with some new faces – and it’s sure that will happen. In three years, my experience with Daniel [Levy] has always been trying to find a player to improve. The difference is were they the right or wrong signing?”

Pochettino’s comments are sure to be welcome by an antsy Spurs fanbase that is itching for some new blood to improve the squad. Spurs have a vaunted academy, but with the possible exception of Anthony Georgiou, none of the players hoping to crack into the first team such as Josh Onomah, Kyle Walker-Peters, or Cameron Carter-Vickers did much to prove that they are ready for the rigors of the Premier League.

That suggests that Pochettino is serious about spending some of the £53m windfall from the sale of Kyle Walker to Manchester City on depth signings. And yet that brings us back to the initial dilemma: who is willing to come and be content to challenge Tottenham’s stars?

Tottenham have been linked to Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic and Porto’s Ricardo Pereira in this window, but rumors about both players have dried up in recent weeks. The most likely signing is still Everton’s Ross Barkley, a player that evokes more derision than excitement from the Spurs faithful.

Spurs have a month left to find players that can slot into Pochettino’s side and push his stars to continue to improve. That’s the challenge, and it may come too late for the start of the Premier League season: Spurs open their league account at Newcastle on August 13 before hosting defending champions Chelsea a week later.

“We understand that Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, [Eric] Dier, [Toby] Alderweireld are really good players. They want to win but need to feel the pressure a little bit to improve every season.

“If there’s no competition in behind it’s normal to drop your motivation, it’s normal to drop everything that you do. And then it’s difficult to win.”