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Mauricio Pochettino: The modern day master tactician

“YOU ARE NEVER A LOSER UNTIL YOU QUIT TRYING”

This quote is the ideal way to describe Mauricio Pochetino’s managerial career which spanned over a decade. When PSG lifted the Champions Trophy beating Marseille 2-1,  It ended the 12 year long trophy drought for Mauricio Pochettino as a manager.

Born in a poor family in Murphy, a village in Argentina, Pochettino’s playing career began in 1988 with Newell’s old boys: the famous Argentine club which produced many talents such as Lionel Messi, Maxi Rodriguez, Gabriel Heinze, etc. He attracted interest from many Latin American and European clubs before chosing to join Espanyol where he played more than 300 games and captained the side. The Argentinian rejected offers from many Latin American giants like Boca juniors to move to Espanyol. He played a brief spell at France as well, for teams like PSG and Bordeaux before returning to Espanyol. It was during his time at PSG that he actually started thinking about a coaching career.

Espanyol were facing a possible relegation in the 2008 season with just 10 games left to play. Despite having minimal coaching experience, Pochettino took charge of the club. His side earned a draw against the mighty Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-finals. It was followed by 8 miraculous wins from the remaining 10 games, which kept Espanyol in the top tier. Even after losing many of their key players, Espanyol continued to play fantastic football. A hardworking and high-pressing mentality was instilled in the players. The addition of academy players earned him praises and he had drawn attention from many clubs across Europe. He then moved to Southampton in January 2013 and had a wonderful spell in his first year. Southampton finished 8th in the league, with their highest point tally in 20 years. 

Tottenham, on the other hand, were not really enjoying a good run in the league. They finished 5th in 2012-13 and 6th in 2013-14 under Andre Villas-boas and Tim Sherwood respectively. Earlier, Tottenham had become a strong top table presence under Harry Redknapp, climbing positions from being a mid-table club in 2008; to a Champions League qualifying team in 2012. So it was the high expectations on Redknapp’s successors, that forced the management to sack both Villas-Boas and Sherwood in consecutive years.

Pochettino became the manager of Tottenham after replacing Sherwood in 2014, and the change was spot-on. Similar to the style of previous Pochettino teams, Spurs were having high physical competence and were quicker in moving the ball high up the pitch. Pochettino’s man-management attributes are often praised by his players which inspired them to refine themselves both physically and technically. The rise of players like Harry Kane, Eriksen, Alli, and Son fuelled the steady rise of Tottenham from a Europa spot. They secured 5th, 3rd, and runner up spots in the subsequent seasons.

Even with these unparallel results, the lack of silverware had affected the motivation of many players. Even Pochettino was left frustrated by the lack of signings in the 2018 transfer window. Even though, his side showcased a fairy tale run in the Champions League by beating teams like Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City. The two-legged thriller against Ajax which saw them coming back from a 2 goal deficit in the first half to win the game 2-3. The match is regarded as one of the most exciting semi-finals the tournament has ever witnessed. But the dream run was ended by a Liverpool side who had lost the previous year’s final to Real Madrid. The match ended 2-0 and Liverpool were crowned as the champions.

The downfall of Tottenham and Pochettino has started along with the new season. Players were unable to recover from the upset of losing the Champions League final. Performance in the domestic league also affected the course. Pochettino had issues with both players and management and he eventually lost control over the dressing room. On 19th November 2019, Jose Mourinho replaced Pochettino as the new Spurs manager.

Pochettino was heavily linked with the Manchester United job, to replace the under-fire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But against the odds, On January 2021 Pochettino took over Thomas Tuchel as the head coach of PSG. The first trophy of his career was up for grab as the Champions Trophy final was scheduled just two weeks away. His first match was four days after taking the charge, which finished as a 1-1 draw against Saint Etienne. Pochettino registered his first victory as PSG boss in a 3-0 home win over Brest. Winning a trophy with PSG may not be a tough feat as PSG were clear favourites in the tournament. But there is no doubt over Pochettino’s ability to manage, as he has proved it at every stage of his career. Pochettino with ample resources at his disposal could be the one who can fulfil PSG’s ultimate dream of winning the Champions League.

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