Mauricio Pochettino is done as manager of Tottenham Hotspur, thus ending one of the most successful and exciting periods in the club’s 137-year history.
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Pochettino achieved more — even despite failing to win a trophy in his five and a half seasons at the club — than any manager since the legendary Bill Nicholson in the late 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, and he did so with resources which paled in comparison to those of numerous clubs that his side routinely outperformed.
To credit Pochettino for what he achieved — taking Tottenham from perennial Europa League dwellers to nailed-on Champions League qualifiers well ahead of schedule — isn’t to absolve the Argentine of his own faults or shortcomings.
He couldn’t have been an easy man to work with, or for, given the demanding nature of his human personality, his managerial style and his tough-as-nails tactics. For the past five seasons, he had absolute buy-in from every last individual in the squad, and achieved previously impossible things at a club like Spurs — four straight seasons finishing in the PL’s top-four and the famous run to last season’s Champions League final.
He was relieved of his duties on Tuesday, but the beginning of the end was undoubtedly this summer’s transfer window. When the likes of Christian Eriksen, Toby Aldeweireld and Danny Rose were desperate to leave the club — something Pochettino himself was desperate to oblige as he knew now was the time for a teardown and rebuild — the Spurs hierarchy, namely chairman Daniel Levy, put his foot down and railroaded the 2019-20 season long before it kicked off. It was at that point that Pochettino’s fate was decided, and he immediately understood both the short and long-term ramifications for himself and for the club.
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Pochettino was many things as Spurs manager, but adaptable or willing to compromise was not one of them. Surly by nature, he was far more so anytime he spoke publicly. He openly questioned the loyalty and dedication of his players and frequently hinted, as he had done throughout his years of working with Levy, that the club’s two most important figures had different visions of where, and how, to take the club forward.
Committing to Pochettino’s way must feel like joining and henceforth belonging to a cult.
Once the players’ blind willingness to follow the him into a raging inferno had gone, Pochettino was done. No longer were the players willing to endure long, grueling training sessions — sometime double and triple in nature — as it no longer directly benefited them and their respective careers. If Spurs wasn’t the club to double their current contracts and financially secure them for life, nor a club willing to sell them to one of a handful of clubs that would, why should they continue to run themselves into the ground for a disloyal club when they knew they would leave as a free agent in less than 12 months? In short, the current season began an untenable situation for Pochettino, and it only grew worse from there.
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The fact that Levy, a man best known for pinching his pennies in any negotiation, has willingly chosen to pay Pochettino more than $16 million to no longer work for the club indicates a complete breakdown in communication and that particular working relationship.
In some ways, it’s fitting that Pochettino is free from the financial limitations of Spurs and Levy is left to clean up his own mess.
Unless he already has his next Pochettino lined up and is prepared to back the successor in a way he has never before backed a manager, Levy comes out of this wholly sad ordeal looking like an uncooperative, iron-fisted ruler for having fired the only genius he himself ever hired.