Mauricio Pochettino: I love Tottenham Hotspur, I love the club

Following his exit from Tottenham, Pochettino went to Argentina to spend time with family after seven years; he also saw Diego Maradona.

Moving on: “After five years in Tottenham, it’s a great time to be relaxed and be happy," says former Spurs coach Mauricio Pochettino.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Football, like life, can often throw a curveball at you. Sometime ago, Mauricio Pochettino was just a game away from taking Tottenham Hotspur to the FIFA Club World Cup. But following a UEFA Champions League final loss to Liverpool in June, Pochettino seemed to have lost his magic wand after five and a half glorious years at Spurs as his team struggled in the Premier League. Pochettino is in Qatar, but not as manager.

Exactly a month after his exit from the North London club, he, however, looks much relaxed — the anxieties on his face that had become a common feature during the last few months gone. The Argentine manager spoke to select media, including Sportstar, about his plans and his undying love for his former club.

How has been your experience in Qatar?

I think I am very surprised with the weather. I have always heard the weather is going to be difficult and very hot. But the weather is amazing, it’s 24-25 degrees during the day and 18-17 at night — it’s the perfect weather to play football. The coaches and the players will be surprised by this and you feel this (winter) is the right time to do the World Cup here. Everything is in place and they have three more years to improve.

A lot of present and former players are here. Have you shared ideas with them?

I am sharing space now with players like Iker Casillias, John Barnes, Christian Karembu and learning from them. It’s always nice to talk to people and pick up points and share ideas. When you do that, you start to feel that you will become a better coach, a better person. It makes you to think and try harder to be better.

You were very intense as a manager. How have you been spending your time these days?

After a few days (following his exit from Tottenham) I went to Argentina and spent very nice time with my parents after seven years. My family was there and friends. I saw Diego Maradona and now I am in Qatar. There has not been time to think too much, but I have enjoyed a lot because when you are in football you are focussed for 24 hours a day and sometimes it’s difficult to be away from thinking about the next game. After five years in Tottenham, it’s a great time for us to be relaxed and be happy. In life you need to move on and you have to do that even quicker in football. Now I have to recharge the batteries and be ready if some opportunities arise. I am open to listening to offers.

Are you keen to get back to the English Premier League?

Of course, I love the Premier League, I love the English fans and I think if not the best it is one of the best Leagues in the world. And for any manager it’s exciting to be involved in the Premier League. But there’s not just the Premier League, there are different Leagues in the world, different clubs and challenges that can be exciting and different. We can think about all that in the future, now we are trying to just recover and be ready as that’s the key point.

You are always going to have the spotlight and every big club, having managerial troubles, must be looking at you... What did you feel when you read rumours that you will be the next Manchester City manager?

To be honest, I don’t read too much. I have Jesus (Jesus Perez — Pochettino’s friend and assistant) with me, he reads more and then informs me. I trust what he says. It’s nice to hear your name linked to big clubs, but sometimes these rumours are not nice for the managers at those clubs. We were not in London to listen or talk to anyone about any offer. It’s important for us to take the time to regain the motivation for a new challenge.

Would you have been open to coaching Arsenal despite your Spurs links?

When I say I am open to projects, I can’t say I’m closed to someone particular. When you are open, you have to listen to every offer and then say yes or no.

Will you be interested to head back to La Liga?

I am open to everything. You never know how things conspire, you never know which project and club can motivate you. It’s not just about a project, it is also about the people, the people you want to work with. We care a lot about that.

You know Mikel Arteta very well and he holds you in very high regard...

I wish him well. He is a very good friend of mine. We met in Paris Saint-Germain when he was very young. I was the captain of PSG and I am happy to see him in the dugout.

You were like a father to him in PSG...

Yes, but he is a very, very old man (laughs). I can be big brother, that’s better than father. He is very clever, has his ideas and should enjoy his position. It’s not same as being assistant and it will be great to have him on the touchlines.

Pochettino (with ball, facing camera) is also open to the idea of going back to Tottenham, the team that he loves so dearly, perhaps at a later date.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Are you happy to see Spurs doing well?

Of course, I love Tottenham, I love the club, I love the fans and the staff. When you leave a club you want them to win games because that means the team is alive and is prepared to compete. There are different reasons why you split but you always want the best. That love is never going to change.

With that love and regard that you have for Spurs, do you see yourself heading back there some day and finishing what you started ?

In football you never know. Look what happened with Zinedine Zidane (enjoying a second stint with Real Madrid). There are plenty of examples. The most important thing is to end a relationship in a good way. I will always feel the love of Tottenham fans. But now it is not in my hands, it is someone else’s decision. So, I would like to move on and attack the new challenge and try to achieve all that the new people expect from me.