Former Tottenham manager speaks of his desire to return to coaching in England and his legacy at White Hart Lane
Wednesday 12 February 2020 12:13, UK
Mauricio Pochettino admits he would love to return to the world of Premier League management.
The 47-year-old currently has the relaxed air about him of a man who has spent almost three months away from the intensity of his chosen profession, detaching himself completely from football. But it is clear the ambition to return to the sport, specifically in England, burns brightly inside him.
Pochettino cut a relaxed and convivial figure during an hour-long chat with Sky Sports' Natalie Pinkham for the In The Pink podcast, but his eyes notably sparkled when talk of a potential return to English football came up.
He has enough integrity to never mention the names of the clubs which have been consistently linked with his services, especially those with managers already in post.
Pochettino would be a desired target for any club in the Premier League because of his work at Tottenham, but for now the approach from the man himself is that of the - almost entirely, but not quite - straight bat.
"To be honest, I would love to work in the Premier League," he said. "It's going to be difficult, I know, and for now it's a moment to wait and we'll see what happens.
"It's a moment of recovery, to think about yourself a little bit, and to be ready because in football always something can happen and you need to be ready.
"I'm ready and waiting for a new challenge. I have the belief and confidence that the next challenge will be fantastic."
Pochettino has been away from Spurs and out of football since November 19. He has taken the time for deep reflection and has kept only a marginal eye on the clubs which have been associated with him.
"I was in Argentina, I was in Qatar, I was in Spain and I have Jesus [Perez, assistant manager to Pochettino at Spurs] who follows the news a little bit but I notice the rumours," he said.
"All of the coaching staff accept that there are rumours. We deal with rumours naturally.
Pochettino watched the Championship game between Brentford and Leeds on Tuesday.
Neil Ashton, PR advisor to Manchester United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, walked into the stands behind Pochettino.
Pochettino has been out of a job since November 19.
"The people need natural people, normal people and we don't say that we are unique with that but we are not actors and we don't do anything that we don't believe."
For more than five years, that belief embedded itself in a winning culture at Tottenham. There will always be a feeling of regret that such a positive philosophy was never manifest in silverware, but Pochettino was the guiding hand during a period of great transition in north London, and his role in that remains a source of huge pride.
"Of course I feel very proud about everything I achieved at Tottenham and when I analyse my time there, plenty of positive things happened," says Pochettino. "I took charge at a pivotal moment for the club.
"Everything I had to do was very scary in those moments. To destroy White Hart Lane and to build a new stadium, to play at Wembley and Milton Keynes, only football people know how difficult it was to deal with these situations.
"To apply a new philosophy and new ideas was very tough but I feel very proud with the success that we had and to take Tottenham to a different level.
"To play in the Champions League for three or four years and finish above Arsenal many times was a great legacy for us. To win a title would be a great reward but for us that is the legacy, to have the club and the stadium at Tottenham. That is more than winning titles."
Pochettino's arrival in England came in January 2013 but might have been before that; when his Espanyol team-mate Florin Raduciou moved to West Ham in 1996 he pitched a similar move to the-then centre-back as he would thrive in its "naughty" environment.
While the no-nonsense defender might have been a great fit in the mid-1990s rough and tumble of the English top flight, he would have to wait almost two decades to make his presence felt, and in a completely different way.
"The young English managers today have the influence of the European people," he said. "Before, English football was closed. It was difficult to share and mix here but the European coaches have been influential. People have been more open to discover a different type of football.
"When I first arrived at Southampton the players would say you have to play long balls in behind the full-backs and press, the approach was always like this. To change this mentality was tough but you can see a different style in football now and that makes the Premier League the best league in the world."
A key element of what has made Pochettino successful is his belief in 'energia universal', an inner belief which Pochettino has used as a guiding light since childhood.
"I've always believed in this energy, that when you dream and you think, you will become obsessed in your mind to find something," he said. "Then, this energy will help you find it.
"I don't know if anybody put this idea in my brain, or if it's my own idea, but it's there. The energy is there, but only if you believe. It's all about you, if you believe or not. If you don't want to see this energy, it will disappear."
Time will tell if any Premier League club make the decision to recruit Pochettino, and bring his 'energia universal' back to the division.
If no such offer is forthcoming, he will explore opportunities abroad, a prospect which, while practical, would not seem like the best fit for a man who has become so firmly entrenched in the footballing culture of this country.
"If we move to Europe," he says with a smile that can perhaps only be described as rueful. "We are going to miss England."