Friday 23 August 2019

Comment: Why Mauricio Pochettino might soon conclude he will not live out his dreams at Tottenham

Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino. AP Photo/Peter Dejong
Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino. AP Photo/Peter Dejong
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

There was an eerie inevitability surrounding PSV Eindhoven's late equaliser against Tottenham's Champions League on Wednesday night - and the ramifications could be wide ranging.

Luuk de Jong punished Spurs for their failure to kill off inferior opposition with a last gasp goal that could cost the north London club so much more than the financial windfall they would have received from a place in the knock-out stages of Europe's elite competition.

This was a setback that cut deep into the spirit of the Tottenham dressing room and the images after the game confirmed as much.

Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen looked crestfallen after a setback they worked so hard to avert and then there was manager Mauricio Pochettino, who could have been forgiven for wondering if he had just witnessed the beginning of the end of his Tottenham dream.

After rejecting the prospect of taking over at Real Madrid last summer, the Bernabeu hot-seat is about to become vacant once again and while former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is the man taking the Bernabeu hot-seat this time, Pochettino will inevitably be offered his dream job in Madrid once again sooner rather than later and next time, he may well take the bait.

Manchester United may also be tempted to test Pochettino's loyalties should they dispense with Jose Mourinho in the coming months, with one of the most sought after tacticians in the world game edging closer to reaching the inevitable crossroads in his career.

This is a manager who has built a glowing reputation despite failing to win a single trophy in his coaching career and he must now be wondering whether his ambitions can be fulfilled at a club that simply cannot make the move to the elite level under its current ownership structure.

Tottenham's new 62,062-seater stadium is rapidly heading towards completion, yet reports that the initial budget has had to be expanded by an eye-watering £600m means the club will be carrying a financial burden for years to come as they attempt to balance their books.

While Pochettino may have reluctantly accepted the Levy's failure to sign a single player in last summer's transfer window, how would he feel if that story was repeated in January or again next summer?

With stadium costs spiralling, inflating the club's relatively modest wage bill and investing in marquee signings is unlikely to be a priority for Levy and the club's decision makers any time soon, with a host of issues rapidly emerging on the Spurs horizon.

Belgian defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld will be out of contract next summer and while there is an option for the club to extend those deals by a year, the duo may have to be sold on cut-price trasfers unless new deals are thrashed out.

Midfield maestro Eriksen is believed to earn around £70,000-a-week at Spurs, but he could quadruple that salary amid interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Dele Alli's £50,000-a-week deal also making him vulnerable to transfer approaches from bigger spending clubs.

Tottenham's current wage structure is built around a bonus scheme that incentivises success on the field, yet Pochettino's star men must look on with envy when a club like Manchester United hands out a £160,000-a-week contract a full-back Luke Shaw and considers it to be a sound investment.

Kyle Walker's appearance in Manchester City colours against Tottenham at Wembley on Monday night will provide an untimely reminder of the riches that lie away from Pochettino's squad, with the former Spurs defender doubling his wages to £130,000-a-week when he joined City in the summer of 2017, but Spurs simply cannot operate at that financial level.

In a lavish football universe where six-figure weekly wages have become the norm, Spurs are paying their star players wages that could be usurped by clubs like West Ham, Crystal Palace and Fulham and eventually, that prudence will catch up with them.

Spurs owner Joe Lewis - who spends most of his time on his €130m yacht in the Bahamas - could invest a chance of his €4billion fortune into Tottenham to either finance the stadium project or player investment and change the club's image overnight, but he has never shown an inclination to get involved in the club during his 17 years as its reclusive owner.

Even though it seems highly unlikely that the belligerent Levy would allow his manager to leave mid-way through a season, Real Madrid are reportedly considering replacing Lopetegui with B team coach Santiago Solari in the belief that they can get their chief target next summer.

Unless the lie of the land changes dramatically at Tottenham between now and then, Pochettino would have every right to believe his current employer may never be able to match his  own considerable ambitions.

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