In the press conference following Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United, Mauricio Pochettino created a minor uproar when he seemed to indicate that he might be considering a future away from Tottenham Hotspur. His use of the phrase “with me or another” when discussing the project currently underway at Spurs became a furious discussion point in the English football media, with many breathlessly wondering whether his comment suggested that he might be considering leaving Spurs for another club.
Pochettino clarified his position on Friday in another press conference ahead of Monday’s Premier League match against Watford, saying that he’s totally committed to Spurs and that his comments were taken out of context.
“It’s about the long term. We are creating a very good mentality, to try to win.
“First of all it was to reduce the gap with the top four. Many things we are doing fantastically. But it doesn’t mean not with me, because I still have a three year contract. I think that we need time. What I wanted to explain after a very frustrating afternoon when we were all excited to play the semi-final and go to the final, that the project cannot change because in what the club believes, everyone believes that we are building a different thing.
“We cannot compare with another club maybe. Only I want to translate that we need time, we need time to achieve all that we want. The good thing is that we are competing with the top sides that choose different ways to build that success.”
This is more or less what I expected him to say, and it falls in line with an earlier editorial I wrote after this entire saga broke last weekend. Pochettino seems puzzled by the fact that his offhand comment, made in the heat of the moment after a disappointing loss in a cup competition, could be construed as questioning the ongoing positive trajectory of Spurs, and his place in that process. For Poch, the project is the project, and he was trying to say that the club and the process are larger than the person who currently leads it.
“The problem is the context of the question. For me I am going to say the same, Tottenham is doing a fantastic job, developing an amazing project. I wanted to tell you that it’s a long term project, that is not going to change with us or another coaching staff.
“But the project at Tottenham is so strong. It’s not a message to send to someone. It was the context of the question and I explained. The project is so strong and we believe in this project. The club cannot behave like different clubs. I think that the project that we created all together, the club needs to keep going, pushing on together in this direction trying to achieve all the things that the club wants. It’s not a message for someone. It was what I feel and what I told you.”
As fans and as sports consumers, we are naturally predisposed towards dissecting minutiae of our favorite players and sports personalities’ comments, like we’re mining for gold. It’s a natural part of the process, especially in light of football’s fascination with player sales and moves. But that same process sometimes does everyone a disservice as it can lead us to jump to conclusions that may not actually be there. I’m certainly guilty of that too.
We all know that Pochettino will not be at Spurs forever, but the kerfluffle over “me or another” went way beyond Poch’s intended message, such that his message was completely overshadowed by “will he leave” speculation.
That’s unfortunate, because Poch was making a pretty important point: despite another semi-final cup competition and another season without silverware, there’s no denying that Spurs are on a continually upward trajectory. The process is working, and Poch thinks that Spurs will continue to improve in the future, whether or not he’s there leading the club. That’s not a Poch departure rumor — that’s a statement that he’s at the right place at the right time.