Tuesday 15 October 2019

Kevin Palmer: 'Mauricio Pochettino is not eyeing up a move to Man United. He just wants Tottenham to change'

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino (UEFA)
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino (UEFA)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

"I have very clear ideas of what we need to do. I don't know if the club will agree with me or not. We need to create the new project. It is a little bit up to the club to agree. We need to be brave, we need to take risks to be competitive."

The words of Mauricio Pochettino in May 2018, a few days before he was given the promises he craved from Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy and signed a new five-year deal to remain as the club's manager, fired the starting gun on his campaign for change.

Now, 17 months on from the meeting that ended with Pochettino rejecting the prospect of advances to take over at Real Madrid and Manchester United and putting his signature on a new £8.5million-a-year contract, the crisis he could see emerging on his horizon has exploded in full living colour.

Last Tuesday's embarrassing Carabao Cup defeat against Colchester was the low point of a 2019 that has included notable highs and far too many lows for a side that have lost 16 times in all competitions, with Pochettino's hard-won reputation taking a battering in the process.

For the Argentinian, who represents himself in his negotiations with Levy and has never employed at agent, leaving Tottenham has never been his first option as he knows the power and influence he has built-up at the north London club would not come his way elsewhere.

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Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino is believed to be highly rated by Manchester United officials. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Yet it is the feeling that promises made by Levy in those contract talks haven't been fulfilled that has created a schism between a duo who built up a strong personal and working relationship in their first four years together.

The Levy and Pochettino families would often have dinner together, they were working from the same script as the club battled to finance the construction of their magnificent new home and there was an understanding that when the stadium's project concluded, the club would be operating on a different financial playing field.

Keeping star players rather than signing new heroes was a policy that satisfied Pochettino temporarily as he worked towards the day when his purse strings would be released and he would compete with Europe's giants for the game's top players.

The date circled in his planner for that moment was the summer of 2019, with his success in guiding Tottenham to their first Champions League final last June, despite the club failing to making a single signing in the two transfer windows last season, adding to his bargaining position.

Yet it is not just transfer funds that Pochettino wanted Levy to release, with his comments earlier this week offering an insight into the change he has been pressing for over the last three years.

"We speak about my relationship with the chairman and I say it is good, even if we don't agree with what has happened in the last year," stated Pochettino, ahead of his side's Champions League clash against Bayern Munich on Tuesday night.

"The circumstances have changed at this club. It doesn't mean more signings make a better team, it doesn't follow that you have a £1.2bn stadium you will win more games.

"It's a mix of a lot of things that you need. The circumstances are different from one year ago. We all change and move on in one year and we achieved things that before we didn't achieve and it all changes.

"People look at this club in a different way now. We were in a Champions League final, we challenged for the Premier League title, we are ready to be a contender.

"This is the moment to go to another level and I hope that in January and in the next transfer window we can do that.

"You need to work in a different way or find a different way to work. Challenges appear, personal circumstances appear. All change and you have to adapt.

"In life it changes, completely, and what we need to understand is that if circumstances change you need more time than maybe before. We are in this period now when we need to make some changes."

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers is the bookies favourites to replace Mauricio Pochettino if he leaves Tottenham (Peter Byrne/PA).

Pochettino's biggest gripe centres around Levy's insistence on maintaining a strict wage structure, with Harry Kane the club's top earner on a contract worth up to £200,000-a-week and some of the club's other stars wanting to join him at that level.

Yet the Spurs chairman will not sanction long-term contracts for players edging close to the age of 30, which has left defenders Toby Alderweireld (30) and Jan Vertonghen (32) in a state of limbo as they are in the final year of their contracts and are not being offered acceptable new deals.

Midfield maestro Christian Eriksen is also in the final year of his contract after failing in his concerted efforts to leave Tottenham this summer, and Danny Rose is another international who the club tried and failed to sell last summer.

"The transfer window was a problem for us," states Kane. "It is common knowledge that players wanted to leave in the summer and they are still here. It's not an ideal situation, but we have to move on.

"Whoever is on the pitch has to give their all to the cause, but some of the performances this season have not been up to what we expect."

Kane's public confirmation of dressing room unrest fuels the theory that Pochettino considered leaving Tottenham ahead of this new season, but he would have needed to buy himself out of his contract to leave the club and that would have resulted in a bill that would have cost him millions.

It has resulted in an the uneasy stand-off between Levy and his manager, after another summer that saw Tottenham's net spend in the transfer market fail to reach anywhere near the figure Pochettino would have hoped for.

Contrary to popular belief, Pochettino is not eyeing up a move to Manchester United. He just wants Tottenahm to change and prove they can match his own lofty ambitions.

Yet, as Levy has proved time and again during his 18 years running Tottenham, he will not change his financial set-up for anyone, and that stance is certain to snap the patience of his prized manager sooner rather than later.

The Real Madrid and Manchester United jobs may well be up for grabs again before the end of 2019 and this time, Pochettino will have no decision to make if he is offered an escape route from Tottenham.

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