'Disrespectful and sad' - Pochettino blasts Guardiola over 'Harry Kane team' comment
Mauricio Pochettino has branded Pep Guardiola "disrespectful" and guilty of making such a "sad comment" that the Tottenham Hotspur players had openly laughed at him when he described them as the "Harry Kane team".
In an extraordinary defence of Spurs, and attack on Guardiola, Pochettino even said the Manchester City manager "struggles to be a gentleman" when he wins and should have called him over the international break to apologise.
In a sense, this was old-school management from Pochettino, rallying his club against a rival with a punchy, bravura performance, but what was so surprising was how increasingly vehement he was in his stance - which started with the claim "the situation did not affect me" and that he had laughed about it but ended with an unequivocal denouncement of Guardiola.
His remarks were in response to Guardiola's comment, after City's 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge before the international matches, when he listed the "Harry Kane team" alongside Chelsea and Manchester United as the Premier League title contenders.
"I don't know why he said it," Pochettino said. "Why he showed too much respect to Manchester United because in the same way he could have said 'Lukaku team'. But in the same sentence he said Manchester United, Mourinho, and then he said it was the Harry Kane team. It was very disrespectful to the club."
Guardiola responded, when informed of what Pochettino said, by claiming his remark was being misinterpreted.
"If he believes this, maybe I should say 'Pochettino's team' when I said 'Harry Kane's team'," Guardiola said. "But I said it because he (Kane) scored two goals more against Huddersfield and a goal for the national team and another goal for the national team. But I think Mauricio has made a mistake."
Kane is in exceptional form, with 15 goals in 10 matches and 43 in 37 games in 2017, which has put him on the 30-strong shortlist for the Ballon d'Or, recognising the striker as one of the best players in the world - and the only Englishman included. Pochettino has been vocal in his individual praise of Kane but assessed that Guardiola had overstepped the mark.
Pochettino noted that he, during his time as coach of Espanyol, had never called Barcelona "the Messi team" when Guardiola was in charge of them.
"He (Guardiola) was part of the big success of Barcelona with Messi at his best. I never said it was the 'Messi team'," Pochettino said. "I always said it was Barcelona, it was Pep Guardiola, and I think everyone deserves to be recognised as being part of the success of the team. But I think that many people took those words as being very sad and disrespectful to the club.
"But always I have been a football person, a manager, who defends and supports the job of the manager, of Pep. I say, 'OK, Messi is very good, Iniesta is very good, Puyol is very good, Xavi is very good'. But without organisation, without a great job from the manager it is difficult to win.
"I know that very well and that's why I am always supportive. When people say, 'Nah, it's Messi', I say, 'no, no, no. Messi is one of the best, but Guardiola is a great manager'. That's why it surprised me and made me sad. After a great win at Chelsea, he then says the 'Harry Kane team'."
Pochettino continued: "Sometimes, he (Guardiola) struggles to keep his position and be a gentleman. I take that situation - it didn't affect me but in reality, it was very disrespectful for many people. It's difficult to understand."
However, Pochettino said he did not feel Guardiola's remark would motivate his players.
"No," he replied. "It's a sad comment, because the players laugh about that but if you're a manager, you must show more - be above this type of comment.
"I respect his opinion but I don't think the players will be more or less motivated. But it's sad, a sad comment.
"It is not right in today's football when we want to show fair play and respect. It's OK for the players to laugh about it - supporters, fans, people who care about the team. But the players have moved on."
Asked whether Guardiola had called him to explain, Pochettino said: "I was sure he would call me... we have a very good relationship. We have a lot of friends, Mikel Arteta, Lorenzo Buenaventura, Edu Mauri - people on his staff are very good friends of mine.
"It's a sad comment. He's a great manager, one of the best managers in the world, so why make that comment? It doesn't help him. It's not a good thing for anyone... maybe after the press conference he will call me."
That call may now come in with Guardiola expressing surprise at Pochettino's reaction when he was informed about it.
"When I talked about Harry Kane's team, it was because Harry Kane was scoring a lot of goals," Guardiola said. "And I know perfectly that Tottenham are not Harry Kane alone. So, I think last season, the person who spoke most about appreciating the way Tottenham play was me. So, I'm really disappointed if he said that."
Spurs travel to City on Dec 16. It should be interesting.