Mauricio Pochettino has sent out a reminder of the faith he and Tottenham Hotspur have placed in Eric Dier as Manchester United circle the England international.
United manager Jose Mourinho is prepared to guarantee Dier a role in his midfield if he can persuade Tottenham to sell the 23-year-old, who has played most of this season in defence at White Hart Lane.
Spurs insiders and sources close to Dier believe that stories emerging of United’s interest this week were aimed at turning the player’s head.
While there is no suggestion United will be successful in unsettling Dier, there is a sense that he prefers to play the holding midfield role, which he did with distinction for Spurs last season and still plays for England, than acting as a third central defender.
With summer signing Victor Wanyama performing well, Mousa Dembele established as one of Pochettino’s key men and the development of Harry Winks, there appears little prospect of Dier being moved back into the Tottenham midfield anytime soon.
Pochettino dismissed questions over United’s interest in Dier and whether or not the player is happy at Tottenham as “speculation”, but was more forthcoming on his development at the club.
“Analyse Eric Dier, from where he came,” said Spurs manager Pochettino. “He came from Portugal, but I think people are a bit confused sometimes. Before, he was in Everton and then he went to Portugal with Sporting, and we signed him as a player with potential.
“We provided all the tools to be a Premier League player. My first game in charge against West Ham, he started as a centre back, next to Kaboul. Kyle Naughton got a red card, he moved to full-back and scored.
“That season, he played like a full back, like a centre back but never as a midfielder. Then in the summer, we were looking for a midfielder and we had plenty of options (to buy one), but I decided to play Eric in midfield.
“I created a system that he felt comfortable in. He played like a midfielder without the ball, but with the ball he was a third centre back. You can see in possession he dropped in between the centre backs or between the full back and the centre back, and always we play with three.
“People say now Chelsea changed the system, but no we played always the three in possession. Out of possession, Eric moved in front and without the ball he tried to press and play like a midfielder.
“Then we signed Wanyama and played both, but we had some injuries like Toby (Alderweireld) and Jan (Vertonghen), and Eric was the perfect player to play as a centre back. That is a good thing for the player, the possibility to play in different positions and do well in every one.”
Whether Pochettino’s reminder is enough to convince Dier to ignore United’s interest remains to be seen, particularly as he aims to keep his England midfield place ahead of next year’s World Cup.
Meanwhile, Pochettino has ruled out ever managing Barcelona, despite being spotted with Spanish club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu last week.
Barcelona are searching for a successor to manager Luis Enrique, who will stand down at the end of the season, and Pochettino’s chance meeting with Bartomeu fuelled rumours the Argentine could be a candidate.
But Pochettino said: “I am an Espanyol supporter and I don’t speak too much. It’s like if Daniel Levy sacked me in a few years, it would be impossible to manage Arsenal.
“In football it’s difficult to keep values, to stay loyal with heart and emotion. But, for me, it’s more important to be loyal. I am an Espanyol fan, I love Espanyol and now Tottenham. For me, it would be impossible one day to move to Arsenal. It would be impossible.”
Left-back Danny Rose is waiting on the opinion of a specialist to find out when he will return from a knee injury, while striker Harry Kane has resumed training but Pochettino will not put a date on his comeback.