Paul Mitchell, Southampton’s highly-regarded head of recruitment, has formally handed in his notice ahead of being reunited with Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham Hotspur.
His appointment in a similar role at Tottenham will represent a major endorsement of Pochettino after his difficult start to the season at Spurs and will not impact on the role of director of football Franco Baldini.
Under the new structure envisioned by chairman Daniel Levy, Mitchell will take up a new position in which he focusses on identifying the best talent and also implements his strategies for analysing existing players. Mitchell was credited at Southampton with breaking new ground in the way he went about assessing players and his methodology was a key factor in the club recruiting so wisely after selling almost £100 million of players this summer in Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Calum Chambers.
By contrast, Tottenham struggled badly to find value for money in their signings after selling Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for £85 million last year. They are in the bottom half of the Premier League table and have lost four of their last five home games. Southampton are second behind only Chelsea.
Spurs, though, had offered Mitchell a vastly improved salary and it is understood that he will not be answerable to Baldini in his new role. Baldini is said to have been in favour of the move, with Levy determined to improve the club’s recruitment strategies from the lowest academy age-groups right up to the first-team.
Tottenham signed Ben Davies, Michel Vorm, Eric Dier, Benjamin Stambouli and Federico Fazio this summer but Pochettino has not appeared to be completely convinced by them. He now wants to sign two forwards in January, with Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez among the likely targets. Tottenham did not make an offer for Rodriguez during the summer but did have a £10 million bid turned down for Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin.
Although Southampton will recognise that the loss of Mitchell is a significant blow, the club has been structured to ensure that they are not overly dependent on any particular individual. That has been proven in how they have continued to deliver fantastic results in 2014 even after the departures of Pochettino, chairman Nicola Cortese and the five leading players. They regard Mitchell as part of a bigger team and are confident that his departure will not undermine their progress and push for European football.