Champions League

Gary Neville adds fuel to Mauricio Pochettino-Real Madrid fire

Former defender claims that the Argentine is ‘laying the foundations for his Spurs exit’, adding to already circulating rumours that are linking the latter to the now-vacant manager’s job at Santiago Bernabeu

Spurs were beaten 1-0 by Manchester City at Wembley on Monday night, with the loss leaving them fifth in the English Premier League  table, five points behind Pep Guardiola’s men. The club also spent zero money in the summer — not recruiting a single player — while the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea both spent over £100 million ($131.5m). However, now with Real Madrid sacking Julen Lopetegui, the Tottenham star has been linked with a potential move there.

The Reds and the Blues, along with City, are unbeaten thus far this season, with the title race likely to feature at least three key players. And Neville feels that, eventually, Pochettino will look join a club where he gets the resources to compete at the very top of the game, even if that means leaving England and going further afield, as persisting rumours linking him as replacement for Julen Lopetegui at Santiago Bernabeu show.

“Pochettino has always peddled the party line well,” Neville said on Sky Sports ahead of the clash with City. “We know what Tottenham are like in terms of being quite conservative and pragmatic with spending and they do what they can, but he has always managed things well and pushed away questions about why can’t you spend like other clubs do.

“Pochettino is a brilliant coach but at some point he was always going to want to manage one of the super clubs in Europe. There are a couple at the moment that you can imagine will be changing manager in the next 12 months and looking at him, and he will know they are looking at him.

“It feels to me that he has laid the first foundations for a move away from the club and started to prepare the ground.”

The former Manchester Unite captain added after the match: “I said before the game it’s the first bricks in the foundations of potentially wanting to leave and during the game tonight the Real Madrid coach has been sacked. If you are Real Madrid and you are thinking ‘Where can I get a manager, where’s the next manager?’ He speaks Spanish and has been a coach in La Liga.

That is an appealing job for anybody in world football. He took the job knowing Daniel Levy, the board at the Tottenham, the restrictions, so my view is that now he probably wants that next level of job because he deserves it as he is a brilliant coach. That next level is available at arguably the greatest club in the world of football in Real Madrid.

“That’s where the manager might be thinking ‘is this now the time for me to step out?’ I think Tottenham, if Real Madrid want him, will have a real problem in the next few days. I don’t think they do, we are just putting two and two together, but we spoke about the timing of his comments, and is the timing because a job has become available?”

Spurs currently play their home games at Wembley, as their new stadium is yet to be built, while they are teetering on the verge of elimination from the Champions League.

And Pochettino has let his frustration at the way the season is unfolding be known. “The season so far, it’s strange because my feeling is the worst feeling I’ve had in the five years that I’ve been here,” Pochettino had said to reporters. “It’s the worst. My feeling, but it’s the best start ever for the club in the Premier League. It’s strange, no?

“I don’t know, it’s so difficult to explain because many things happen, I am disappointed we are still waiting for the new stadium when the expectation was to be there at the beginning of the season.”

Spurs return to action on Wednesday night against West Ham in the Carabao Cup, before their next Premier League fixture on Saturday at Wolves.

Authors take

Pochettino has generally been a very calm and guarded person, but this season, that mask has ever so slightly slipped off. Lack of summer business and the mishap regarding the new stadium have not helped either, and it really won’t be a surprise if the former Espanyol player decides to return to Spain, albeit as manager of one of the most powerful clubs in the world.

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