The summer signing of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg from Southampton certainly wasn’t the flashiest move that Tottenham Hotspur made this summer. That’s almost certainly Gareth Bale. However, Højbjerg is currently making a strong case that his acquisition was the most important, and his manager is taking notice.
The Danish midfielder was excellent in the North London Derby against Arsenal, marshalling the midfield and mopping up defensively during Arsenal’s long stretches of possession. He was rightfully praised for his performance, but Mourinho went further, calling him “a pain” in training and tipping him for a career in management when his playing days are over.
“Pierre is very intelligent, he reads the game very well, he understands the game very well. He is going to be a coach one day, for sure. He is a pain [in training], always asking questions why we do this and that.
“On the pitch he reads the situation very, very well and the people that surround him they are really compact and they read the game. Physically he is very strong and technically he is much better than people think.
“Sometimes people think the guy that is good technically is the guy who does the back heel, the guy who does something wonderful, but these are not my words, they are words of some coaches from 30 or 40 years ago: Simplicity is genius. And the guy is so simple in everything he does with the ball and I think he is a phenomenal player. Congratulations Mr Levy.”
In this case, these kinds of comments aren’t that unusual. I’ve heard plenty of coaches in other sports and for other teams praising their star players’ ability to process the game by calling out what a pain in the ass they can be behind the scenes asking why things are done the way they are done. I can absolutely see Højbjerg as one of those kinds of players — the kind that annoy the coaching staff to no end by constantly trying to figure out the WHY, not just the WHAT. It’s great. I can absolutely see him as a head coach someday, training the future Mousa Dembeles of the world. And Mourinho’s backhanded compliment is still nicer than football.london’s Alasdair Gold, who hilariously (and astutely) referred to Højbjerg as “a rash” in a recent column!
Hojbjerg has played in every minute of every single Premier League match for Spurs this season, the only Spurs player who has done so. That’s a pretty strong indication of his importance for this Tottenham team. Even if he’s a “pain” to his coaches and his opponents think he plays like a communicable disease, Høbjerg has certainly cured a lot of Spurs’ ills.