Last night while driving home from work, the news was everywhere that the Argentine romantic coach Mauricio Pochettino had been let go by Tottenham Hotspurs. I was first hit with dread- expected decision but what next?
Pochettino had in the last 5 years made the London club a top-four team and nearly Champions League winner last May.
A lot can be read into this divorce between Daniel Levy and the Bielsa student Pochettino but in simple terms, this was an amicable predictable end; the best man to hold expectations of a club that had finally decided to get the infrastructure and shrewdness to. transition from a mid-table club to an elite club.
I may be wrong but five years in and Pochettino had overperformed yet had no big stripe to justify his march to laurels. In five years he got all but one thing right; keeping the academy production line running as he turned raw talent into superstars, produce healthy returns as the board worried about managing wage bills and player turnovers and keep the fans happy with the style of play and reason to believe one day they will win trophies.
But the only dark spot in the white shirt of the Argentine tactician was not getting the team over the line- winning when it mattered most.
In the 2015/16 season when Leicester won the league in fairytale fashion, Spurs were labelled the near team when a decisive match with Chelsea saw a team with verve crumble like a ton of bricks.
To my mind, that was when it became clear that Pochettino could go close but didn’t have the firepower for the last mile.
This showed once again in the Champions League final last season when after steamrolling Manchester City and sweeping aside Ajax in scintillating fashion failed to drive the dagger in the hearts of Liverpool fans against another then nearly manager Jürgen Klopp.
Levy clearly saw all this and so did the Spurs board but its not all on Mauricio’s head. The player turnovers, the contract stasis and refreshing the team was all for Daniel Levy to deal with and he didn’t, never mind the Ndombele and Le Celso acquisitions.
Pochettino also knew the end was here but dug his heels in. Why? Because as I have learnt the only job where getting the sack is the best piece of business is being the head coach of a Premier League.
His bank alert will shortly read: ‘Mauricio your account has been credited with 12 million pounds’. That means he along with his backroom staff can have a sabbatical with loaded pockets and a perfect chance to refresh, assess and look to the next mission.
For Spurs, the choice of Jose Mourinho to lead the club is a perfect decision.
The task is simple for the serial winner- turn the near team into winners.
That means European glory and a League or FA Cup between now and 2023.
This performance contract is one Jose can manage easily with his bulging CV the kind to back his big talk up and demand obedience from the squad who are itching to win for all their efforts.
But the script is also laid bare- Levy the stingy chairman will have to square up with a coach who loves to spend big on ready-made players for instant success. One big bust-up and the gloves will be off and the dog fight will begin. But a good sparring session full of healthy concession and mutually beneficial decisions will keep the bout enjoyable.
For the Premier League as a whole, the brash talking pragmatic manager will look at fixtures and lick his lips at the prospect of leading his charges against his former clubs Chelsea and Manchester United plus the trip up north to Liverpool to prove that he was once glum without a job but he’s right back in the muddy paddle.
This will be an exhilarating ride.
I’m ready. Are you?