Six months on from his sacking as Tottenham boss, Mauricio Pochettino is ready to return to management. The Argentinean oversaw a progressive period at Spurs following on from his arrival at the club in 2014, finishing as runners-up in both the Premier League and last year, the Champions League.
But after a disappointing opening to the 2019-20 season, Pochettino and Daniel Levy, begrudgingly, parted ways, with Jose Mourinho replacing him in north London.
But now, following an interview with Sportsmail yesterday, the 48-year-old has confirmed his ‘tank is completely full’ after completing his gardening leave.
‘It has been an amazing time to review everything, organise again our ideas, plan the future to try to compete better, try to learn from our experience and look forward for the next job,’ Pochettino said. ‘You need to be ready for the moment when the offer appears.’
But just where will that next job be? From the Premier League to prestigious clubs abroad, Pochettino will be a man in demand come the eventual conclusion of the season this summer.
At the beginning of this month, amid a proposed £300m takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund, Pochettino was linked with a move to St James’ Park.
Perhaps not the first club which immediately springs to mind with Pochettino’s next adventure, the change in ownership could be a game-changer in English football – Man City/Abu Dhabi-style.
Though current manager Steve Bruce looks set to finish the current campaign, with the team currently lying in a respectable 13th place, the potential new ownership group – led by Amanda Staveley – may want to make a high-profile appointment as a serious statement of intent.
Pochettino spoke yesterday about how a job in the Premier League is ‘one of the options’, and also interestingly spoke about his desire for a ‘project’.
‘We love England,’ Pochettino admitted. ‘We have our house and our home here. The people are respectful. The Premier League is the best league in the world. It is one of the options.
‘I’m very open to wait for the seduction of the project.’
Despite the links, the Saudi-led consortium have not yet received official word of passing the owners’ and directors test, although sources close to the deal remain confident that will be the case.
In stark contrast to the rebuild needed at Newcastle, Pochettino could move to Manchester City, where the nucleus of an all-conquering side has long been in place.
After a season in which City look certain to relinquish their Premier League crown to Liverpool, solace could come in the Champions League, should the competition be completed this summer. But the long-term future of current boss Pep Guardiola has been up for debate.
Though the Spaniard’s contract runs until the summer of 2021 – and he’s long said that he intends to see out his contract – Guardiola is yet to stay at a club he’s managed for more than four years.
His successful period at Barcelona concluded after four seasons, while his time at Bayern Munich only lasted three years.
Having arrived in Manchester in 2016, Guardiola is reaching that four-year mark now – could he shock the City boardroom and fanbase alike and call it a day this summer, particularly after the tragic news of his mother’s death due to coronavirus.
If he did leave, Pochettino would surely be one of the top candidates to replace him.
Pochettino’s links with the hot-seat at Manchester United have been the source of speculation for many years now.
The Argentine was first linked with the United job during the downfall of Jose Mourinho at the club in the 2018-19 season.
However, after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was given a three-year contract following an impressive period as interim boss, and results picked up before football was halted in March, those rumours have now somewhat subsided.
And yet, there is no doubt the man in charge at United, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, has long courted Pochettino.
If Woodward is indeed desperate to land the Argentine, fresh and rejuvenated after a period out the game, now may well be his best chance.
Though he spoke of his fondness for the Premier League, Pochettino did not rule out a move abroad.
‘I am not closed to move to a different country,’ the former Tottenham manager said.
As such, as ever when a high-profile managerial name becomes available, Real Madrid are an ever-present club in the rumour mill.
Though Zinedine Zidane took over for a second time last season, the former Galactico hasn’t hit the ground running this season, though they do still remain in the hunt both domestically and in Europe, despite a 2-1 first-leg defeat to City at the Bernabeu in the last-16 of the Champions League.
Pochettino was linked with Madrid heavily last season, when he felt he hadn’t ‘missed the Madrid train’.
This time round though, is the train running and if so, will Pochettino be tempted to catch it?
Perhaps the most unlikely of the super-clubs, Barcelona have not been wholly satisfied with their manager since Luis Enrique’s resignation in 2017.
Though successful in terms of trophies, Ernesto Valverde’s dramatic failures in Europe overshadowed his tenure, while new man in charge Quique Setien has had an indifferent first few months. Pochettino, though, would represent a serious statement for intent.
However, as a former Espanyol player and coach, Pochettino has long said that he would not manage his former club’s city rivals. And yet, if offered the job, would Pochettino turn down the opportunity to work with compatriot and one of the best players of all time in Lionel Messi?
Finally, in an interview with BT Sport a few weeks ago, Pochettino got a lot of nostalgic Tottenham fans excited when he mooted a return in the future.
‘Deep in my heart I am sure our paths will cross again,’ Pochettino said. ‘From the day I left the club, my dream is to be back one day and to try to finish the work we didn’t finish. We were so close to winning the Premier League and Champions League.
‘Of course I am looking forward to moving on and I am so motivated for the next project. But deep inside I want to go back because the fans are so special. Maybe in five years, maybe in 10 years, but before I die I want to manage Tottenham.
‘I want to feel what it means to win one title with Tottenham because the fans are amazing, all the love we received was amazing and that is a good opportunity to pay back all the love they showed us from day one.’
If all doesn’t work out with Mourinho, Pochettino could be back in north London quicker than you first thought.
Reported by: Vincent Paul