Mauricio Pochettino generally has a pretty cordial relationship with the national team managers of his club players. He almost has to — if he doesn’t get along with people like England’s Gareth Southgate and Belgium’s Roberto Martinez, it creates tension when it comes time for those players to head off on international duty. It’s a balance, obviously, but it never hurts to be convivial.
However, Roberto Martinez seemed to overstep his bounds today when he spilled the beans on the injury to Jan Vertonghen, and Poch is not having it. Martinez let slip in a press conference announcing the Belgium roster for the upcoming Nations League matches that Vertonghen could be out for as long as six weeks.
Here’s what he said, courtesy of HLN journalist Kristof Terreur:
That’s bad! Six weeks is longer than what we were given to believe from Tottenham, though if he strained his hamstring it’s certainly in line with an anticipated recovery time.
Martinez spilling the beans, however, has apparently irked Mauricio Pochettino. Spurs were keeping mum about Vertonghen’s status, but now the cat’s out of the bag and Mauricio voiced his displeasure about the communication in his own press conference.
“Of course it’s so difficult to communicate with all the national teams. Look at now, before my press conference you knew about the Vertonghen situation because Roberto [Martinez] told the media in Belgium before us. But in the end it’s our player, our Tottenham player. Our Tottenham employee. We arrived here and we needed to explain. It’s difficult. They need to call us. They need to call and ask. If they call us, we are more than open to talk – and give our opinion. But if they don’t call, our door is always open to receive.
“The natural thing, if they have some doubt, is to call us. Not you calling them. Because the players are here every day and in the end our job is day-by-day and for them it’s every month. And they have a little bit more time than us to be interested in the player and call us.
“I don’t want to create a problem but that is the normal behaviour -- that the national team calls you, not that you call and say ‘oh, be careful with this or that’. It’s [not] like you don’t want the player to go to the national team.”
In the same press conference, Poch and Spurs assistant Jesus Perez also gave an update on Jan and how he went out injured.
Perez: “We asked him and we thought he could play. The first action was a contact and it’s unusual to get a knock in your hamstring. That’s why he was playing on. He was assessed at half-time and as soon as all the information was to prevent any further damage, he was off.”
Pochettino: “And one component that’s important: the adrenaline when you’re playing football is so high. And you don’t realize. You run under stress, competing. And when you stopping running, you feel it and it’s difficult to stop. But it’s difficult to assess during the game because he didn’t realize how it was and he only felt a big knock from the striker and he thought it was a dead leg.”
At a certain level, the gamesmanship around player injuries and communication to the press is a little bit silly. Whether Martinez told the press about Vertonghen’s status or not doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things — it’s not going to make Jan’s hamstring heal any quicker. And yet, we know Pochettino likes to keep news like this close to his vest, possibly to make sure opposition managers are left guessing as to who might play in any given match. I get that too.
This is probably just annoyance peeking through from Pochettino over the spate of injuries currently in Spurs’ squad. Maybe Roberto can send him a fruit basket to smooth things over.