Mauricio Pochettino isn’t a manager who is afraid of bigging up his players. He regularly praises the likes of Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min, and the other big Tottenham Hotspur stars in press conferences. But he also isn’t afraid to talk about younger players who maybe hovering slightly under the radar.
One of those players is Harry Winks. Pochettino said in recent comments to the press that he has spoken to England manager Gareth Southgate, and thinks that Winksy could be England’s answer to its current midfield creativity problem.
“Harry has the profile of the perfect midfield player. His characteristics are perfect. When we talk about midfielders like [Spain greats] Xavi and Iniesta, he’s like this type of player. He has this capacity but he needs to take my words in a very positive way — he needs a lot of work.
“I don’t want to praise him too much because if so his head [grows big]! His perception will be ‘wow!’ And the reality is he still needs to prove [himself]. He has the possibility and the potential, of course, but now it is up to him and we go again: mentality. In his mind he is capable to learn about suffering: there never is enough training, always try to be better.
“Football must be his focus, not the business around football. Maybe [if he learns this] he will play at a very good level and be one of the best midfielders in England. If he wants to take my advice, take it. If people don’t want to take it, we cannot help. But of course his potential is to be a very, very good player for England and Tottenham. First for Tottenham and then, if England believe that he can help them, for England, too.”
Wow. That’s some really impressive praise from Pochettino for a player who hasn’t played significant minutes in about a year. It does illustrate pretty succinctly just how much Pochettino likes Winksy, and his potential. We’ve seen glimpses of that ability earlier in his career, for example in the early Champions League matches last season and in the win over Liverpool at Wembley. But Winks lost a lot of match time after his ankle injuries, and he’s not there quite yet.
It’s also interesting to see Pochettino qualify his comments pretty clearly. He talks up Winks’ potential, but is clear that Winks needs to realize that potential and can’t rest on his laurels. It almost seems he’s learned his lesson about comparing young Tottenham players to huge Barcelona stars (looking at you, Marcus Edwards).
Maybe it’s still a little too early to start projecting Harry Winks as England’s midfield savior — he needs to establish himself as a regular in Tottenham’s midfield first, and he’s only now coming back into Spurs’ first team. But if Poch’s comments are anything to go by, he has the potential to be a very important part of English football going forward. Move over, Tom Carroll — there’s a new contender for the role of English Xavi.