You know how we’ve been talking about how Tottenham Hotspur might have a “secret manager” candidate that was out of left field and that we didn’t know about?
It turns out that Secret Manager might be Mauricio Pochettino.
Multiple outlets including the BBC and The Athletic are reporting this morning that Spurs have reached out to Pochettino about the possibility of a shock return to the club that fired him 19 months ago after reaching a Champions League final.
According to The Athletic, Pochettino has found life frustrating at PSG, and the club isn’t entirely enamored with what he has done in the six months he has been in charge — PSG won two domestic cups but did not make it as far into the Champions League as was hoped and lost Ligue 1 for the first time in four years finishing behind shock winners Lille. Pochettino also seems to be under the same kind of pressure that dogged his predecessor at PSG, Thomas Tuchel. However, PSG is denying that that Pochettino is leaving, even as they seemingly acknowledge that their manager has been casting furtive glances towards his ex.
As reports emerged on Thursday morning, Pochettino’s employers in Paris were understood to be surprised by the pace of the developments. The Athletic has been told that the club’s president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and sporting director Leonardo held a positive meeting only this week with Pochettino about summer transfer targets and plans for next season. Despite reports in Italy saying Leonardo has been asked to source possible replacements for Pochettino, several sources close to the French club denied this is the case and appear relaxed and confident even if their coach may have spoken to Spurs.
— Jack Pitt-Brooke, The Athletic
PSG, for what it’s worth, posted an interview with Pochettino after the conclusion of the club’s season, where Poch promised that big things were yet to come from him and his PSG side.
“I think that in football you are never satisfied. Because perfection doesn’t exist. But we are always looking for that satisfaction that we can’t find, because I always believe that football challenges you every day and that from season to season you have to be better and better. But in a club like Paris Saint-Germain, you are forced to think that perfection or satisfaction can come and that winning is the only option. And for a club like ours, it’s about winning, winning and winning. And then winning again. It’s a feeling I always thought I’d like to have. It requires a great, great amount of energy and always be sure that your priority is to be professional and that the difficulties and obstacles can always be overcome. And I think that’s the challenge, to impose that here.”
Returning to re-hire Pochettino would certainly make Tottenham Hotspur fans happy, and would be a recognition that the forces at play that led to his sacking in November 2019 was a mistake. There are hints that Spurs chairman Daniel Levy already privately admits as such, and Miguel Delaney in the Independent writes that senior players at the club have already come to him to tell him as much.
[Pochettino], who was replaced by Jose Mourinho in 2019 and guided Spurs to two title tilts in 2015-16 and 2016-17 as well as the 2019 Champions League final, has repeatedly been told that the managerial change was “great mistake” by the Spurs chairman.
He has been reminded about that by senior members of the squad, who have also been in touch with their former manager, pleading for him to return.
—Miguel Delaney, The Independent
This doesn’t mean that this is a lock to happen, however. There is a significant managerial churn at the highest levels of football right now with the shock resignations of Antonio Conte at Inter Milan and Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid yesterday. Pochettino, should he want to leave for another club, would need to resign from PSG and forfeit any financial loyalty bonuses that might be in his contract.
And even if he does so, it’s also not a given that he’d return to Tottenham! There are open questions about how his tenure ended at Spurs and while he has frequently said that he’d be open to a Spurs return, the wounds of his departure are still relatively fresh. There would need to be a recognition from Levy and the club that they need to back him more financially, and recognition from Pochettino to possibly work with a Director of Football, or trust the recruiting apparatus at the club and be more open to potential signings, a point of friction during his tenure.
What we do know is that this story has, again, turned the managerial search at Spurs completely upside down. Yesterday was all about Antonio Conte. Today’s headlines are about Poch. And say what you want about the past two years, but the idea of Tottenham’s Argentinian Football Dad returning home after a period of exile does have an awful lot going for it, doesn’t it?