Fired by Tottenham Hotspur despite reaching a Champions League final, Mauricio Pochettino is adapting to the growing instability of management as he relaxes, re-energizes and searches for a new club.
In his first interview since being replaced by José Mourinho last month, the Argentine coach and former international reflected on the challenge to ensure Spurs competed at the top of the Premier League for a sustained period for the first time.
“Five-and-a-half years, that was so, so, so tough,” Pochettino told The Associated Press on Saturday. “The journey was amazing. I don’t need to talk about what happened … only that it was an honor for me to be at Tottenham.”
After top-four finishes in four consecutive seasons – and reaching June’s European final despite spending nothing on players last season – Pochettino was dismissed with Tottenham 14th in the Premier League.
It was a ruthless decision by Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy in a bid to halt the decline, reflecting how hard it is to stay as long as Pochettino in any managerial job. Unai Emery followed Pochettino out of north London rival Arsenal 10 days later.
“You need a result today, it's not important what happened the past," Pochettino said. “But for us and for the fans, of course, it is so important what happened in the past.
“But, yes, we need to accept that this is a different football, a different business, and we need to adapt today because young men, coaches that we need to adapt to a work for the company, need to accept that new era of football.”
The Argentine was speaking to the Associated Press at the Club World Cup where he could have been coaching had Spurs not lost to Liverpool in the Champions League final.
“Five-and-a-half years working in Tottenham was a very enjoyable time, a very nice journey and I only keep good memories,” Pochettino said. “I think what happened in the past, happened in the past and now moving on is the best for everyone. That is happening in life and happening in football.”
Reduced job security does open up opportunities for out-of-work coaches like Pochettino.
“We know very well how our job is,” Pochettino said. “In the last 10 years you see a little how it’s changed and ... it’s unbelievable. But that is our job and we accept that.”
However much he has enjoyed returning to visit family and friends in Argentina, Pochettino does not want a prolonged period out of the game.
“I tried to enjoy relaxing, tried to recharge the batteries,” Pochettino said. “This type of thing helps us to again to feel all the energy. We'll see what happens. I am a person that is always open to listen to people. And of course, we'll see about the future.
“But at the moment, I only try to get relaxed, spend time with my friends, my family, the things that before were impossible to do. And we'll see. Football is going to find a way to put us into the race again.” Pochettino would manage another English club, despite his deep affinity to Tottenham, which has enjoyed a mini-revival of sorts under Mourinho
“In football you never know what can happen in the future. you need to be only free and open to listen and anything can happen,” Pochettino said. “I am a coach and I would love to be in in the best place that you can.
"Now is a moment to recharge the batteries. The Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world. But it’s not only the Premier League, there are a lot of leagues in the world that can be exciting or a very good challenge.”
One lingering uncertainty is whether Pochettino will get to keep the Bentley given to him by Levy as an appreciation of his loyalty to Tottenham in 2016.
“I don't know. I need to ask him,” Pochettino said. "At the moment it is in my house and ... I will see in a few months if it was a present or it was only to say, ‘You use the car and when you will not be here you return the car.’
“I don’t know you need to ask Daniel not me. I don’t know what is going to happen.”
by Rob Harris, Associated Press