Even before the 2019 Champions League final, the first in Tottenham Hotspur’s history, Mauricio Pochettino offered a hint of what his future at the North London club might be. Unprompted, the Argentine raised the prospect that the Madrid final against Liverpool could prove to be his last as Spurs manager. Few at the time took him seriously.
Those who did suggested Pochettino would view Champions League glory as the perfect way to complete his Tottenham project, going out at the top. In hindsight, it was more of an insight into the frustration that was starting to build inside the Argentine over the way Spurs were being run at executive level.
Six months later, Pochettino was gone as Tottenham boss after entering a spiral over a lack of support in the transfer market. The Argentine believed his squad was in need of an overhaul while Daniel Levy argued Pochettino had more than enough to keep the North London club at the top of the English and European game.
Given this fundamental, and ultimately critical, difference of opinion, one wonders what Pochettino made of the six signings made by Tottenham Hotspur this summer. Not since 2013, when Gareth Bale’s world record sale to Real Madrid filled the coffers, have Spurs made so many new additions in one window.
A number of problem areas were addressed. Matt Doherty and Sergio Reguilon to give Tottenham the new full backs they have needed for at last two seasons. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was signed from Southampton, while Joe Hart came in to provide cover and competition for Hugo Lloris and Carlo Vinicius arrived from Benfica.
Of course, the headline signing came in the form of Bale’s return to North London. The Welshman is only on loan, but Spurs are still reportedly paying up to half of his £600k-a-week wage. This comes after Tottenham spent around £60 million in January on the addition of Steven Bergwijn, Gedson Fernandez and the permanent signing of Giovani Lo Celso.
In 2020, Spurs have overhauled their squad in the way Pochettino always wanted. Tottenham have backed Mourinho in the transfer market since he took over, so why didn’t they back his predecessor after all he’d achieved at the club? Why has Levy bowed to Mourinho’s demands when he baulked at Pochettino’s? Why didn’t they place their faith in the man who had forged Spurs in their present form rather than gambling on a new man in the dugout?
It’s possible Levy deserves to be cut some slack. Pochettino was notoriously particular in the players he wanted at Tottenham, much to the frustration of the club chairman who repeatedly had transfer market suggestions rebuffed. Mourinho, it seems, isn’t so particular, focusing more on the character of new signings rather than their tactical profile.
Nonetheless, it’s impossible not to feel Spurs have thrown their transfer market weight behind the wrong manager. Pochettino took Tottenham Hotspur to a new level, making them a near permanent fixture in the Champions League, and he did so on a budget much lower than the majority of his rivals. He had more than earned Levy’s trust.
As demonstrated in Amazon’s ‘All of Nothing: Tottenham’ series, Levy holds a personal infatuation with Mourinho. He still views the Portuguese as one of the best two coaches in the game and views Spurs’ ability to hire him as a symbol of how far the club has come under his stewardship as chairman.
Levy has long wanted Spurs to act like a big club to prove they are a big club. Big clubs hire big name managers like Mourinho and make lots of signings in the transfer market. Pochettino, however, is entitled to ponder why he wasn’t seen as the right big name manager to be backed in the transfer market.
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