Manchester United ready to pay world record fee for Mauricio Pochettino
Manchester United are not fazed by the prospect of having to pay a world-record fee to make Mauricio Pochettino their next manager.
The Tottenham Hotspur manager appears emphatically to be United's choice to succeed Jose Mourinho but Spurs will fight hard to keep the Argentine, who last May signed a new five-year deal, one which does not contain a release clause.
A figure of £42 million has been mooted to secure Pochettino's release. Buying him out of his £8.5 million-a-year contract, at the end of this season, would total £34 million. The remainder of the figure, another year's money, would therefore be made up of the offer of a compensation fee.
It would represent by far the largest amount paid by one club to bring in a manager from another but United are believed to be prepared to pay whatever it takes if they are given the encouragement that Pochettino wants to join.
It is not a given that the 46-year-old will push to move to United while Real Madrid remain interested in him. But sources suggest that he is not only United's No 1 target, but the only candidate being seriously considered.
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However, United insist they will now begin a thorough process to identify and then hire their next manager and are not ruling anyone in or out.
In order to fight off interest, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will step up his bid to bring outside investment into the club and will tell Pochettino that he will not get the same level of control elsewhere.
Pochettino suggested he had no money to spend in the January transfer window by showing empty pockets when asked on Tuesday, and Spurs - yet to move into their new stadium, the costs of which have spiralled - do not expect to be busy in terms of new recruits in the next month. But it is understood there is cash available if the right opportunity can be found, and Spurs do want to make sure Pochettino has money to spend in the summer.
Levy is in talks with a number of companies about buying the naming rights for the stadium, which he values at around £200 million over 10 years.
He is also looking at other investments in an effort to promise Pochettino a healthy summer budget if he ignores interest from United and Real to stay.
Another key factor in Pochettino's future decision could be the level of control he enjoys at Tottenham, which Levy is prepared to use against any offers from United or Real.
It is seen within the club as important that Pochettino had his job title changed from head coach to manager when he signed his first contract renewal in 2016.
Pochettino also argued against any attempt to bring in a director of football or technical director after the departures of Franco Baldini and Paul Mitchell.
United are to undergo a restructuring following the sacking of Mourinho and want a director-of-football figure, with Mitchell, at German club RB Leipzig, one of those strongly in the frame.
Again, however, United are not hung up about the status of the role – or its title – and are simply looking to have a more streamlined approach coordinated through one person when it comes to recruitment in particular.
It may even be that they do not use the title of director of football/ sporting director/technical director, but hire a head of recruitment, which may appease a manager such as Pochettino.
United believe they could not push ahead with their plan to hire a director of football had Mourinho remained which, given his criticisms over the way the club operated, was galling for them.
Pochettino is an ambitious manager but also has to weigh up whether it is the right time to join United, should they go for him, or whether it is better to stay at Spurs who, arguably, already have a stronger squad.
Of course, he would receive a higher salary at United.
Former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is interested in succeeding Mourinho should United not be able to bring in Pochettino.
Having been sacked by Chelsea in July, Conte has split his time between England and Italy for six months and his daughter has remained in school in London.
Wanting to take a break and resolve the legal dispute surrounding his departure from Stamford Bridge, Conte has twice turned down Real Madrid, as well as several other opportunities since the summer.
Solskjaer, meanwhile, will take his first United training session today. He will be assisted by Mike Phelan. Despite the temporary nature of the appointments, both are believed to have been given greater influence than their roles would suggest, and the club will press ahead with a plan to sign a centre-half in next month.
United are considering a move for Porto defender Eder Militao. The 20-year-old Brazilian is regarded as far more attainable than Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, even though Porto are still in the Champions League.
A fee of £40m has been discussed.