Mauricio Pochettino exclusive: Spurs manager's fascinating man-management blueprint
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Last Updated: 07/08/19 3:35pm
"Why is man-management important? Because players are people. They are not furniture."
The importance Mauricio Pochettino places on human interaction is striking. It suits him, and it works.
Football often lags in reflecting society's progress. But when it comes to wellbeing and mental health, where awareness has risen, the Tottenham manager is among those leading the way for the sport.
Pochettino claims to remember every conversation he has had with a player, coach, member of staff, the media, the board. He is adamant management off the pitch is more important than the coaching on it.
Spurs spent nothing for 18 months and still managed to generate enough team spirit to reach a Champions League final and the top four of the Premier League. Astonishing to some, but when Pochettino talks, it all makes sense.
"On the pitch is less important," Pochettino tells Sky Sports. "I think it is most important outside the pitch, the man-management. Football is changing, moving forward. Today the kids are different to 20 years ago. I need to understand that.
"[Man management] is so important because players only think about what you've talked about to them. I need to be aware of 25 players and what we've talked about, remember every single situation. The most important thing for each player is to have a way of talking to us, one way.
"Remembering what you've said, it is important for your relationship. With players, staff, the board, the media, everyone. It is a skill we need to have as coaching staff to be successful."
On the pitch is less important. I think it is most important outside the pitch, the man management. Football is changing, moving forward.
Pochettino on the importance of man management
Pochettino is the third-longest serving manager in the Premier League, but his approach is new school. By insisting players are not furniture, he is inferring they are not robots.
Football is often reduced to players with numbers in positions, a monetary worth attached and an expectation based on a highlights reel and a small box on a Wikipedia page. Stick them somewhere in any team and it is assumed they'll perform how their stats suggest they should.
But happy players make good players. Even the most active Premier League star spends just six per cent of their week on a football pitch. Poch does the maths.
"All the things that happened outside the pitch impacts the performance on the pitch. If you think about how much time they spend on the pitch, it's a minimum.
"Most of the time they are outside with their family, the environment, their friends, agents, companies that advise players, and that is why it's important how you care about yourself off the pitch. That has become more important in the last few years."
Pochettino's focus on mental characteristics may partly explain Spurs' pickiness in the transfer market. Under the 47-year-old, Spurs have never been gung-ho in the window, in part down to the new stadium costs. He wants a particular type of player at the club.
"You want players that you can coach, that let you coach them. Players that are always available to give their best, players whose purity is football. That is the most important.
"Obviously the quality they have is important, and that is why they are here as footballers, but the most important afterwards is the mentality, that professional side, caring about themselves, because that can make the difference. We are going to care more about this in the future."
Spurs have signed Lyon's Tanguy Ndombele and Leeds' Jack Clarke this season, loaning Clarke back to Leeds for a year. Pochettino insists he is happy with the squad, but does that mean it can't be improved? No.
"One thing is to be happy, and another thing is to think we can improve always. It's the best mentality. But of course, we give value to the players we have. We have great players, a very good squad, but you can always work to improve the squad. All clubs are the same in trying to improve."
I think it was my worst summer. With time we will put a barrier in front of it, but if you don't win, that feeling after a few months is hard on you and it's tough to move on.
Pochettino on Champions League final defeat
Spurs start their campaign at home to newly-promoted Aston Villa on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 5.30pm, 70 days on from their Champions League final defeat by Liverpool in Madrid.
That defeat prompted Pochettino to take a train from Madrid to Barcelona, hide away for 10 days and reflect.
"I think it was my worst summer," he says. "With time we will put a barrier in front of it, but if you don't win, that feeling after a few months is hard on you and it's tough to move on. Of course.
"But you learn after defeats. You learn after victories. You learn after getting to finals. That is a process that never stops in your life, from when you are born to when you die. That is in our DNA, our mentality every day here, that every day we learn."
Learn and improve. Improve and learn. They are Pochettino's buzzwords. It's something he references heavily in press conferences, and can sometimes come across as itchy feet. But it is clear he loves Spurs and the challenges the job brings.
"I think we have had a fantastic five years. I think it was the most difficult period of the history of the club, building a new training ground, building a new stadium.
"I think only we know how much we suffered trying to be competitive, fighting for big things, and at the same time building one of the best facilities and stadiums in the world.
"We are so competitive, we love to win and love to compete. A few weeks ago you begin to move on, to refresh yourself, and of course we have the motivation and the challenge to do an amazing season again."
So, Pochettino is the ultimate man-manager. But how is the manager managing? While players get the mental and physical break, for the boss, complete recovery is an alien concept.
"In football, you never feel fresh. Always you need to work hard trying to deliver the show we want, to fight for another season. There are a lot of question-marks every season, that has not changed."
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