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Dublin: 7°C Sunday 29 November 2020

Sacking Pochettino a mistake all of Daniel Levy's making

The squad needed to be refreshed more than a year ago, but it wasn’t and now Spurs must compromise with Jose Mourinho.

Pochettino and Mourinho at Old Trafford in 2017.
Pochettino and Mourinho at Old Trafford in 2017.
Image: Martin Rickett

AND SO HE returns, the sullen avatar of other men’s mistakes.

In football, you don’t quite appoint Jose Mourinho any longer. No, you only end up with Jose these days, and only when a situation becomes sufficiently bleak that the only way out is to auction off a bit of your soul.

Mourinho was all smiles at his introductory press conference at Tottenham this week, but it surely won’t be long before he is back to his surly, lemon-sucking self.

(That might at least provide a use for Mauricio Pochettino’s leftover lemons, which will surely otherwise shrivel and expire in the face of the hurricane of bad vibes that are about to be blown through the corridors at Spurs.)

Perhaps Jose will be somewhat of a success at Tottenham, and will provoke an aged group of players into better performances and possibly a couple of medals in cup competitions before it will come to an end in the usual, berserk psychodrama.

And perhaps Spurs fans will dunk themselves in Jose’s kool-aid and justify the looming drab style along with the conflict and the tension and the endless, exhausting Joseness of it all by pointing to whatever pieces of silver he might deliver.

But when it’s all over: will it have been worth it? Ask the Manchester United fans who were asked to include the Charity Shield into a kind of Tesco Value Treble in 2017.

Jose promises a greying of the vibrant, youthful Spurs of a couple of years ago, and the whole experience won’t be nearly as enjoyable as things used to be under Pochettino.

This isn’t to falsely portray the last year under Pochettino – things were fundamentally broken and the situation needed drastic change. Plus, the reports of unhappiness that were leaking from the dressing room, and Pochettino’s self-serving press conferences were all very Jose-esque.

Things were allowed to drift to the point that sacking Pochettino was the easiest thing to do, but that it got to that point is an indictment of Daniel Levy and how the club has been run.

Levy’s almost Dickensian parsimony has earned him a bewildering amount of praise over the last few years, but this whole business has exposed him as perhaps not as clever as has been made out.

While his ability to ‘drive a hard bargain’ earned Spurs good prices for their best assets, his playing hardball made it too difficult to refresh the squad under Pochettino.

Their refusal to sign anyone in 2018 has caught up with the squad in 2019, and the failure to sell the players that Pochettino wanted out contributed to the staleness that has engulfed the club.

Danny Rose, for example, is now Winston Bogardeing the club: “I’ve said I’ve got 18 months left on my contract and I’m not going anywhere until my contract has finished.”

Levy didn’t sell Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld as he refused to budge on his asking price, and thus they have stayed and bred too much familiarity and too little energy at Spurs.

They weren’t replaced either, so Pochettino has had to play them rather than jettison them, as he had so ruthlessly with Emmanuel Adebayor and Andros Townsend at the start of his reign. 

jose-mourinho-unveiling-tottenham-hotspur-training-centre Jose Mourinho at his first press conference as Spurs manager. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Taking this negotiating line is perfectly fine if you’re selling, say, carpets, but it doesn’t always work with people and it doesn’t always work with footballers.

Settling for a lower price in selling players may be offset by the intangible effect it can have on refreshing the atmosphere on the training ground, but Levy didn’t budge.

Levy effused in Pochettino’s book Brave New Word that his manager could be Spurs’ Alex Ferguson, but Levy could have done with one of Ferguson’s infamous governing principles, to “get rid of the c***s.”

We’re not ascribing that title to anyone Spurs didn’t sell, but Ferguson constantly refreshed everything around him, including his assistants.

Levy instead stuck rigidly to his principles and it has ended with this, the panicked sacking of a manager who will now walk into one of the biggest jobs in Europe.

And now he has landed himself with Jose, where he will be forced to compromise on his parsimony anyway. In fact, he already has: Mourinho is apparently being paid twice what Pochettino was on.

He will have to buy expensive players with little resale value to placate his new manager, and in a couple of years he’ll have to sack him and look to start all over again. 

It’s difficult to see Mourinho and Levy working out, but they do at least share one thing in common: both know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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