Mauricio Pochettino’s 5 year spell in charge of Tottenham Hotspur came to an end in November after he was sacked by chairman Daniel Levy. As one of Europe’s most highly rated managers, this came as somewhat of a surprise and it’s left the football world waiting to see what his next move will be.
Even though his Tottenham tenure ended bitterly, there should be no doubt that Pochettino was a resounding success during his half decade in North London. Pochettino revitalised a club which had been in turmoil the season before his appointment and oversaw several impressive cup runs, including reaching the 2019 Champions League final, as well as four consecutive top 4 finishes during his time at the club. Pochettino put Spurs on the world map as they became able to go toe-to-toe with Europe’s elite, and his achievements didn’t go unnoticed as he was continually linked with some of the biggest clubs in the world. In 2019, the 47-year-old was named as one of the three finalists in the FIFA Men’s Best Coach award, alongside Pep Guardiola and eventual winner Jurgen Klopp.
It was around the Champions League final that some serious cracks in his marriage to Spurs began to appear when he said that he may walk away if they lifted the trophy. Whether this was seen as a lack of commitment by the club’s hierarchy and contributed to his dismissal is pure speculation, but what is known is that he was instantly replaced by Jose Mourinho indicating the board went behind Pochettino’s back to search for his successor while he was still in charge.
A manager that put together the best 5 year run in Tottenham’s modern history, including a staggering 86-point 2016/17 season, deserved a more dignified exit than being given his marching orders in front of cameras for a cash-grab for the club. On the plus side for Pochettino, he will now be able to move on from a club that, quite incredibly, decided to go 18 months without a first-team signing, and he will surely attract interest from some world football powerhouses. So, what are the Argentine’s options?
Despite claiming that he would never manage Barcelona due to his past affiliation with their rivals Espanyol, he had still been linked with the position as it became clear the writing was on the wall for Ernesto Valverde. After openly pursuing their former legendary midfielder Xavi Hernandez in the hope he would take over, they eventually settled on former Real Betis coach Quique Setien. Setien has been given a contract until 2022 but that likely won’t stop rumours of Xavi or Pochettino replacing him surfacing as soon as his Barca side hit a rough patch. Whilst the Barcelona squad would suit Mauricio Pochettino, it would take a monumental change of heart for him to take charge at the Camp Nou, so this can be considered an unlikely option.
Having been through 17 managers in the past 16 years, Real Madrid aren’t shy about changing coach if things aren’t going well. Madrid are having a modest season by their standards, 2nd in their Champions League group and on course for 80 points in La Liga under Zinedine Zidane. However, with Eden Hazard unable as of yet to fill a Ronaldo sized hole and key players such as Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric not what they once were, Los Blancos’ season could quickly head south.
A trophyless season could see Zidane depart again and Mauricio Pochettino has previously been linked with the 13-time European Champions. Unlike with Barcelona, his Espanyol spell won’t stand in the way of him becoming Real Madrid manager and it would be an opportunity to truly show he belongs among Europe’s elite.
There would be no shortage of funds to construct a squad in his image and he would already have a great mix of veterans, such as Karim Benzema and Marcelo, and young starlets like Rodrygo, Federico Valverde and Vinícius Júnior. Real are well known for being trigger happy when it comes to changing managers which may be a concern for Pochettino who has just enjoyed a 5 ½ year stint at a club where he became comfortable, but he likely knows this to be an anomaly in modern football.
Nowadays, top clubs rarely retain a manager for more than 3 years and Pochettino may end up having spells at several top European clubs like Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti have done, for example. If Pochettino believes in his ability as a manager (and the opportunity presents itself) then he should jump at the chance to test himself at the biggest club in the world.
Should he decide to stay in the Premier League, then Manchester United would surely be the most likely option, with the Argentine having been continually linked with them since they sacked his eventual successor at Spurs, Jose Mourinho, last year.
It’s no secret that United have been a mess since Sir Alex Ferguson retired 6 and a half years ago, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer being the 4th underwhelming manager during this time. Whilst Man United have more financial power than Tottenham, there has been criticism of United’s transfer policy under Ed Woodward due to several big money flops. This criticism was only exacerbated last summer when United failed to replace Romelu Lukaku, leaving themselves with a threadbare squad.
Despite United’s poor recent track record in the transfer market and inadequate squad, the chance to resurrect a sleeping giant must be one that intrigues Pochettino. A young core centred around Marcus Rashford, Aaron Wan Bissaka and Scott McTominay can’t compete with some of Europe’s best, but it provides a solid foundation for Woodward and the United manager (whoever it may end up being) to build around. That is as long as they use their considerable funds in a way that constructs the best team possible rather than making a bunch of ‘statement signings’ like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao etc. Serious investment would likely have to be promised in order for Pochettino to come to Old Trafford and it may be that he decides it’s too big of a project for him.
Down the road, United’s ‘noisy neighbours’ have had an underwhelming start to their league campaign as they languish 16 points behind Liverpool. Pep Guardiola has never stayed at one club beyond 4 seasons and if he were to continue that trend and leave this summer then Pochettino would surely represent an ideal replacement. City have an embarrassment of riches to play with, boasting arguably the best squad in Europe, and Pochettino could be the man to continue what Pep started and go toe to toe with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds.
If Mauricio Pochettino wants to return to management imminently, then Bayern Munich certainly represent a presentable option for him. Hans-Dieter Flick is currently in interim charge after Niko Kovac’s departure last month, however it would be difficult for Bayern management to favour him over someone with Pochettino’s reputation.
In recent years, the Bavarians have done a solid job of moving on from some veteran club stalwarts such as Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben whilst phasing out Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng to allow the club’s impressive young nucleus to grow and put the club in a position to once again challenge for the Champions League. They have stagnated since Pep Guardiola left in 2016 and Mauricio Pochettino could be the man to restore an identity to Bayern.
Pochettino experienced great success at White Hart Lane with an attack built around an excellent all-round centre-forward in Harry Kane and, being a similar type of player, Robert Lewandowski would flourish in a Pochettino attack surrounded by the likes of Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman.
Mauricio Pochettino spent 2 and a half years at PSG in the early 2000s and once said that a return to Paris would be “one of his dreams”. Despite PSG having a very solid season, Thomas Tuchel’s future depends on their Champions League performance, so, should there be another disappointing European exit, Pochettino’s dream may become a reality this summer and in many ways it would be the perfect job for him. First and foremost, PSG are still progressing as a project and have a squad that puts them firmly in and amongst Europe’s elite. Any team which includes Neymar and Kylian Mbappe has to be considered desirable for an ambitious manager.
Additionally, a major criticism of Pochettino is that he hasn’t yet won a managerial trophy. He would almost certainly break that drought at the earliest opportunity at a PSG side that has consistently racked up silverware over the last decade. After overcoming that hurdle, he would then have to set about trying to win the Champions League with a squad brimming with talent and winning experience along with an ambitious owner. The PSG job won’t come with the same scrutiny as some of the other historically great European clubs and that could also appeal to Pochettino.
When Mauricio Pochettino decides he’s ready to return to management, he won’t be short of suitors and it is up to him to pick the right club to ensure that his reputation as a top manager continues to grow.
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