Sunday 22 September 2019

Tottenham fear Real over United in race to tempt away Pochettino

Pochettino: In demand. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Pochettino: In demand. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Matt Law

Tottenham Hotspur believe Real Madrid pose a bigger threat than Manchester United in their fight to hold on to their manager Mauricio Pochettino.

And as they battle to retain the Argentinian, Spurs have taken a major gamble on the future of Toby Alderweireld by extending the Belgian defender's contract for a further year, despite a clause stating he can leave for £25million in the summer until 14 days before the transfer deadline.

United passed up the chance to sign Alderweireld ahead of this season, but have made Pochettino their No 1 target to succeed Jose Mourinho as the next permanent manager.

The Old Trafford club are prepared to pay a world-record compensation fee to tempt Spurs to release Pochettino, and are hopeful they can convince him to take on the biggest job in English football.

But sources close to the north London club claim Tottenham believe Real are a bigger threat to their hopes of keeping Pochettino if the La Liga giants choose to make another managerial change at the end of the season.

While there is a recognition that United would be an attractive proposition, Tottenham insiders feel Pochettino would be torn over quitting to immediately join another English club.

But there has long been a fear around Spurs that Real and the opportunity to return to Spain would be difficult for Pochettino to resist, and there is now the added concern that United's interest could force Real's hand.

Tottenham's recent form, which has seen them storm into contention for the Premier League title with successive 6-2 and 5-0 victories, has also further enhanced Pochettino's reputation around Europe.

Real appointed Santiago Solari as the club's permanent head coach in November, following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui who had lasted only four-and-a-half months as Zinedine Zidane's successor.

But shock defeats to Eibar in La Liga, in which Real are fourth in the table, and CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, in which they have drawn Ajax in the last 16, mean Real could reconsider their managerial situation if they do not end the season with a major trophy.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will fight hard to keep Pochettino by telling him he will not get the control he enjoys at Spurs elsewhere, and is seeking outside investment to try to boost his summer transfer kitty.

There is also some money to spend in the forthcoming transfer window, despite Pochettino last week joking that his pockets were empty.

While Tottenham are not expected to be among the busiest clubs during January, it is understood that there are funds available for the right player.

And Pochettino's confirmation that Spurs might have to sell players to make room in his squad for new arrivals may encourage January offers for Alderweireld.

Alderweireld had been about to enter the final six months of his contract, but Pochettino revealed that, just as they did with Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham will take up their option of a 12-month extension. But, unlike Vertonghen, Alderweireld's extension includes a clause that allows him to leave for £25 million in the summer until two weeks before the window closes.

Asked whether Tottenham will extend Alderweireld's contract, Pochettino said: "Yes, for sure. It's obvious. The same situation as Jan."

Confirming Spurs may need to offload players next month, Pochettino said: "We're always open (to signing players in January), but it's going to be difficult - maybe not impossible but difficult. Maybe every day we talk (with chairman Daniel Levy and chief scout Steve Hitchen) but it depends on if players are going to leave and to have space to sign players." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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