Mauricio Pochettino sat down with Sky Sports News' Paul Gilmour to reveal his plans for his next job in management.
Pochettino is the number one choice for Newcastle's prospective new owners to be the next manager at St James' Park and they are willing to pay him £19m a year to take charge of the club.
The former Tottenham manager, out of work since last November, is keen on a return to the Premier League.
In a wide-ranging interview, the Pochettino discusses:
- Being open to managing a club outside the top six
- His friendship with Jose Mourinho
- Why the Premier League must finish the season
- Getting to know Sir Alex Ferguson
You have been out of football since November. What have you been getting up to?
"When I left Tottenham, the first thing I did was travel to Argentina. I spent 10 days there seeing my parents and family, who I haven't seen for five years. Then I watched a little bit of football in Argentina….. [Diego] Maradona, [Gabriel] Batistuta. It was an amazing time.
"Then I went to Qatar to watch the World Club Cup, and then back here. It went by too quickly. We went into lockdown in early March. The time ran very fast for us."
Is the gardening leave period at Tottenham now over? If so, are you ready to return?
"I was ready before now. The most important thing in football is to move on quick, to adapt to the new reality. Of course it is painful when you leave a club after five and a half years, working so hard to develop and achieve objectives. But that is football. It goes by very quick. You need to move on. But we feel very well, that we have recovered from the not so good days. We are full of energy in our bodies, in our minds, to try and provide a new project with all our knowledge and show our passion in football."
How soon will it be before we see you back in a dugout?
"I don't know. In football, every minute counts. The most important thing is we are ready. We are open to listen and see what happens."
How is coronavirus impacting on potential job offers?
"It's difficult to know - there is a big question mark over how it is going to impact football. Of course, everyone can see how it is going to impact the economy, which massively affects the clubs. That is going to affect people involved in football - as little as possible I hope. The companies that provide football entertainment, they are suffering. Our responsibility is to understand the situation and show solidarity. In the end, we all participate in this business.
"I was listening to the chairman of the Bundesliga, he said that football was going to help the people to move on and distract them from this terrible virus. It has started to change the mentality in everyone, including mine. I was very scared at the beginning because the most important thing is your health and to protect our players, their families and all of the staff. That is why we have started to respectfully move on. I am very positive about finishing the Premier League and other leagues like La Liga and Serie A. We need to finish. That is going to benefit not only the clubs but also players and society, to begin to introduce ourselves into this new normality."
Would you like your next job to be in the Premier League?
"I love England. My idea is to keep living in London but at the same time I am open to different countries, to listen and see what happens."
It was your progression with Tottenham that saw you linked with Manchester United in recent years, and the potential Newcastle owners being interested at the moment. What factors are important to you for your next job?
"I need to behave in the way that I did on my first day as a coach. There are two things that are most important - one is the people, the fans that are behind every club. That is the structure that keeps alive all the companies that provide the entertainment that is football. The other is the ideas of the clubs. Every single club and company have different cultures, different philosophies, different ways of working. They all have different plans for success. To be successful at one club you need to win the Champions League or Premier League, but for others it is to finish in the top four or six.
"In the end, when we are waiting for a new offer, and we are capable of providing what a club expects from us, we are going to be very happy. Then the important thing is like what happened at Tottenham, that we create a unique philosophy together.
Daniel took the decision to part ways and find a different management, we can only be respectful. It did not change our perception or relationship.
"When you sign a contract, when you already have an offer from some club and are so happy, the people that offer the new contract - chairman, sporting director - they are your best friend. You are in love. But you know, we feel very proud because after five and a half years, I keep the same relationship with Daniel and all the people that were involved. Okay, we all feel disappointed that it finished like this, but that is football. We will always have a great relationship and be friends forever. The decision to sack me, to leave the club, it is not going to change the memories that we made together. This period was incredible - I was so happy to have the opportunity to share with it everyone working at the club."
It sounds like you left on good terms. You said recently you'd go back at some point. Is that quite unusual in football - to leave a club but still have that feeling? Have you spoken to Daniel Levy since November?
"I spoke with him last Saturday but during the last six months we have always exchanged messages. He was very painful the day he took the decision, we were too, but like I told him from day one because maybe we will repeat the same conversion with the new people if any offer arrives. I need to behave in the same way when you sign me, when you show all your love, that maybe the day you believe we need to split. If in this five and a half years, the relationship was always building in respect and loyalty, that is football. Daniel took the decision to part ways and find a different management, we can only be respectful. It did not change our perception or relationship. We had some amazing memories. I am a person who holds onto my good memories and put the bad ones in the bin."
Jose Mourinho said you would be welcome back any time. What have you said to him?
He is a good friend. We will keep a good relationship in the future.
"We talked. He is a very good friend. He was always nice with me when I started my career with Espanyol and he was with Real Madrid. You always remember this type of act. I respect him like a professional, he is one of the greatest coaches in the world. And of course, now I wish him all the best. We will keep a good relationship in the future."
Going back to the next job, at Tottenham you formed a reputation for playing an entertaining brand of football, but always on a budget. Is a job with more investment and money for transfers something that appeals to you?
"I don't think too much about that. For me it is about the human capital, that you need to stick with us. After that all is possible, you can deal with everything. If we are going to talk about budgets or money, football is not about that. Of course it helps but when you start to work towards your objectives, you need to be clever in the way that you are going to sign this. If you want to win the Champions League and Premier League or be competitive, you need to be creative, clever and assign a philosophy that is different to others."
Would you ever consider a job at a Premier League club outside the top six?
"The problem is which club are top six? It always changes. Today Tottenham and Arsenal are not in the top six. You need to respect all the clubs. They are all working so hard, investing and spending money. They all assign a new strategy each season to reach the top four, top six or top eight. You cannot underestimate any person, any institute or any club. That is why the Premier League is one of the toughest - all the clubs have the capacity to find a way to be competitive."
What was it like being linked with Manchester United throughout your time at Tottenham and receiving praise from Sir Alex Ferguson?
"They are two different things. The rumours are there but we don't listen too much. We try to be natural when living in this business. Of course when some coach is doing well, you take the headlines and people start to link you with different jobs. That is not interesting, it's not important. The other thing is talking about a person like Sir Alex Ferguson, who I always admired from a distance. When you get to know him you admire him more and realise why he was very successfully. Not only in winning trophies but also in the way he managed people. That is the key point for him. What I want to say, he is a person who knows the human side is so important. For his strategy, to create an organisation so capable of winning trophies and being so successful."
What were the North London derbies like, coming up against the likes of Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery? Was it strange that both you and Emery left around the same time?
"They were always special. I am a passionate person, my coaching staff are the same. We always lived the derby in a very passionate way. We enjoyed playing against Arsenal a lot. I have a lot of respect for Arsene Wenger. When we arrived at Tottenham six years ago the perception, feeling and input we received from our fans was, 'please beat West Ham and not only beat Arsenal, but after 23 years we need to finish above them, and please reduce the gap to the top four because our dream is to play Champions League'.
"When you look back, maybe it's not going to be a trophy, but to change this perception and reality was so tough. When we achieved that it was a big step in the mentality of the people at the club. Then after three or four years of playing Champions League regularly and being above Arsenal, the reality was there. We needed time to win titles and our aim was always the Premier League or Champions League. That didn't happen but there was a lot of things that we feel very proud about. Maybe we were very close to winning a title."
What did you say to Emery afterwards? He didn't get as much time as you got at Tottenham?
"I was talking with Unai over a coffee. He explained his experience and I explained mine. They are completely different - circumstances, goals, environment. It is impossible to translate one situation to another at a different club. He told me he spent a very nice time there. Arsenal are a big club with big fans and he feels very disappointed at not finishing the job, like what happened in this case with us."