Pochettino inching closer to his big breakthrough

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, March 7, 2018
Adjust font size:
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino. [Photo/Agencies]

Mauricio Pochettino faces a defining moment as the Tottenham Hotspur boss aims to take another step towards joining the managerial elite by masterminding a Champions League triumph over Juventus on Wednesday.

Long regarded as one of the sport's brightest young managers, Pochettino can use this season's Champions League to reach the ratified air inhabited by the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Diego Simeone.

Like his former Argentina teammate Simeone, Pochettino is coveted by some of Europe's biggest clubs.

But while Simeone has defied the odds to lead Atletico Madrid to La Liga and Europa League titles, as well as reaching two Champions League finals, Pochettino is still waiting for his breakthrough moment.

Despite earning plaudits throughout his nine-year managerial career with Espanyol, Southampton and now Tottenham, Pochettino has failed to lead any of his clubs to a major trophy.

Clearly, silverware isn't the only measure of a manager and no one would doubt Pochettino overachieved at Espanyol and Southampton, given the lack of financial backing available.

Although Spurs boast greater resources than Pochettino's previous clubs, they largely steer clear of the huge fees paid by its top-four rivals in the Premier League.

Since arriving in north London in 2014, Pochettino has deftly navigated those constraints to turn Spurs into a genuine top-four force after years of underachievement.

But the black mark on his CV remains his failure to push Spurs over the finish line when they have been on the brink of landing a trophy.

Having reached the League Cup final in 2015, Pochettino's side slumped to a disappointing 2-0 loss to Chelsea, while in 2016 a late-season swoon allowed Leicester to coast to the Premier League title.

A crucial loss at West Ham cost Spurs dearly last season when they were unable to keep pace with eventual champion Chelsea, which also knocked out their rivals in the FA Cup semifinals.

Tottenham's struggles in away games against its main rivals have been a constant problem throughout Pochettino's reign, dooming his squad to also-ran status in this season's title chase.

But Tottenham's Champions League exploits over the past few months suggest any inferiority complex is being exorcised.

That certainly seemed the case when Spurs crushed European champion Real Madrid 3-1 at Wembley in a group match.

That impressive result came after a draw in Madrid and recovering from two goals down to draw 2-2 in the first leg of a last-16 tie against Juventus in Turin.

More encouraging than the scoreline, Spurs utterly outplayed Juve for huge stretches of that game.

With Tottenham hoping to reach the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since 2011, eliminating the Italian champion would be another step towards the top table for Pochettino, who has been linked with replacing Zinedine Zidane at Madrid.

After admitting he once thought of quitting management by the time he was 50, the Argentine now plans a long career on the bench.

"When I started as a manager I was 36, I said, 'OK, I will be a manager and my limit is 50'," Pochettino, 46, said.

"Now I don't know if I will be longer like Roy (Hodgson) or (Alex) Ferguson or (Arsene) Wenger or maybe I will stop before.

"When I watch football, the manager always criticizes everyone and sees the phantom and tries to defend himself and fight with you and fight with the fans and fight with this. That is no life.

"I want to improve and try to enjoy doing my job, but if I am going to suffer or create drama in my life, I would prefer to go away.

"Football is a joy. The most quiet I am is when we are going to compete. It's not a drama. For other people it's different, but for me football is not a drama - it is a joy."

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter