Mauricio Pochettino will not rush into his next managerial role despite already being courted by Europe’s elite as he undertakes a period of relaxation and reflection.
The Argentine, who was sacked by Tottenham on Tuesday evening, which captain Harry Kane described as “a big shock for everyone – the players included,” plans to use his first break from the pressures of coaching since leaving Espanyol in November 2012 to analyse his work over the last seven years and strategically select his next job.
Pochettino’s time to reset lasted around 35 days back then, despite his intentions to have a five-month hiatus, as Southampton’s former chairman Nicola Cortese began a successful charm offensive to recruit him at St. Mary’s. And the 47-year-old, who has already turned down third-party meeting requests, event opportunities and lucrative punditry offers, will again not be out of work for long with his availability described by an executive of one European team as “a gift from Mr [Daniel] Levy to big clubs at the perfect time.”
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Bayern Munich and Real Madrid have been long-time admirers of Pochettino and have previously attempted to recruit him.
Zinedine Zidane’s position is not secure at the Bernabeu and in October, there was an overwhelming expectation that Jose Mourinho – now at Spurs – would replace him. Following Real’s 1-0 La Liga defeat at Real Mallorca on the 19th of that month, Sky Sports were plugged into their Champions League test at Galatasaray three days later.
The Independent learned the broadcaster feared a loss in Turkey would rob them of Mourinho’s excellent punditry, but an early Toni Kroos goal settled the fixture and saved Zidane. Sky were hopeful of having Mourinho in as their special guest on the December 9 edition of Monday Night Football following the Manchester derby and were surprised by the timing of Pochettino’s axing and the speed in which the Portuguese replaced him.
There is no chance of the departed Spurs boss being in their TV studios or any other as a pundit while a free agent. Pochettino does not have an agent, social media accounts and the first-person book he did – Brave New World – was with the proviso that his royalties would be donated to charity, which funded the Tottenham FC Foundation programme ‘Passion 4 Coaching.’
He remains of interest to Real and has never hidden his desire to one day return to La Liga. He has spent much of his spare time over the past seven years in Spain, where he has a family home in Barcelona. With Ernesto Valverde under pressure at Camp Nou, Pochettino continues to be linked with the club despite categorically stating he could never manage them due to his loyalty to Espanyol.
The same is true of Arsenal, where his name is held up as supporters and former players demand the removal of Unai Emery. While the nature of football means such proclamations can quickly become null and void – see Mourinho insisting he could never manage Tottenham due to his affiliation with Chelsea – it would be in contrast to Pochettino’s nature to go against his word.
Bayern, meanwhile, have confirmed Hansi Flick, who replaced embattled Niko Kovac earlier this month and has won his three games by a combined 10-0 margin, will be in caretaker charge “at least until Christmas, and potentially beyond.” Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge added that Bayern “trust” Flick and the former Germany assistant coach interim period offers the club time to carefully think about their next permanent appointment with Ajax’s Erik ten Hag and Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel as options in the summer.
Pochettino comes as a package option, with his close-knit staff of assistant manager Jesus Perez, first-team coach Miguel D’Agostino and goalkeeping coach Toni Jimenez. Bayern have been reticent in the past to sanction a ‘second culture’ at the club, but there is also the realisation that modern football is more dynamic, with diverse dressing rooms.
The Independent understands their sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic, has been advocating for Pochettino and his opinion is especially important given he is the link between the manager and the players, the manager and the academy as well as the manager and club hierarchy. Interestingly, Borussia Dortmund have discussed the possibility of making an approach for Pochettino with Lucien Favre on the ropes at the Westfalenstadion following yet another performance – a 3-3 draw with bottom-of-the-table Paderborn – that sporting director Michael Zorc termed “unacceptable.”
Given BVB’s remit for youth development, high-pressing, attractive football and their need for a manager to be able to make the most of resources that are incomparable with Bayern’s, Pochettino would make an excellent candidate. They have seen his ability up close, with Dortmund and Spurs meeting six times in the Champions League since 2016.
The Bundesliga side are apprehensive of being outmuscled in their efforts to land him given the scale of interest in Pochettino.
Manchester United continue to insist privately and publicly that they buy into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s long-term vision at Old Trafford, but down in ninth spot, 20 points behind Liverpool and with an elite manager they have long coveted on the market, that stance will be tested.
One thing Pochettino’s suitors will have noticed is that despite suggestions he lost the dressing room at Tottenham and reports of friction with players, the group went out of their way to say goodbye to him.
“It was important for everyone to be able to go to see him,” Eric Dier said after the 3-2 win at West Ham, which got the Mourinho era at Spurs off to a winning start. “I spoke with him and it was good to be able to do that.” Dier confirmed the farewell did not happen at Hotspur Way and Kane revealed: “I went round his house and caught up with him the next day. It was a shock for everyone, so I wanted to go and see him and we had a chat for a couple of hours and it was nice to do that before the new manager came in.”
Pochettino will not be swayed by money or status as he mulls his next move. His decision will be based on the feeling he gets from a club and how their values and approach synchronises with his. He will certainly not be short of concrete offers either and the calibre of names in for him underscores the strength of his reconstruction at Tottenham as does the fact he made it a destination worthy of Mourinho’s CV.