During his time in charge of Southampton and Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino has earned his stripes as one of the top tacticians in the Premier League.
Pochettino required a translator to undertake press duties alongside him when he arrived in England back in January 2013, but he soon proved his worth as a manager and has gone on to establish himself as one of the most highly-regarded coaches in the country/
Here, we’ve taken a look at a selection of quotes from Pochettino, his players, colleagues and observers in order to explain his philosophy.
Pochettino’s career begins with a ridiculous story of Marcelo Bielsa rocking up at the young boy’s house in the early hours of the morning, declaring that Pochettino’s legs were perfect for football and the future Newell’s Old Boys manager signing him for the academy there and then.
Bielsa developed a strong relationship with the central defender, and without doubt had a huge influence on Pochettino becoming a coach.
“Some players realise they want to be managers when they’re close to hanging up their boots. Pochettino was a manager almost from the first day he wore them,” said Argentine football journalist Mazur, who has followed his countryman’s club career under Bielsa closely.
“He was a key player, committed to marking, but his work went beyond the football pitch. Bielsa would instruct him — and the other younger players — to perform tactical tasks away from training.
“He often asked Pochettino to find out how Newell’s next opponents would play. He’d then expect a dossier of information. It’s no surprise that 15 of the 18 players in that squad went on to become managers.”
Marcelo Bielsa is the most imaginative signing made by any English club this summer. My piece on how and why Leeds turned to El Loco. (Interesting fact: Mauricio Pochettino wrote the letter of recommendation for his work permit) #lufc https://t.co/DwvinVOy1M
— David Hytner (@DaveHytner) August 4, 2018
Pochettino recalled the time he realised in his own mind that he was set on becoming a coach, and in fact revealed it affected his playing career.
“When a player’s in the middle of his career he’s not thinking about philosophies – nor when a child plays football,” he said. “You just like shooting, passing the ball, scoring, saving and so on.
“But suddenly a time comes when you feel something has changed. At least, my mind changed. I don’t know if that’s the same for everyone, but when I was 27 or 28 I started to see things differently; I started to get interested in what the life of a coach was like, the team management skills and so on.
“Everything about the life of a coach interested me, and that affected my career as a player because that’s the moment when you’re not so open-minded and pure any more. That’s the sign of your career starting to go downwards.”
Bielsa worked closely with young coach Claudio Vivas, who he described as his ‘technical assistant’, with the pair coaching Pochettino both at Newell’s Old Boys and with the Argentine national team.
“I’m quite sure Bielsa will always be a reference point for Pochettino,” Vivas said. “When Mauricio stopped playing in 2008, he joined Marcelo at the Under 21 tournament in Toulon with Chile, when Bielsa was then working with the new generation of players.
“Mauricio was able to see Bielsa’s methods directly as he was about to become a manager himself.
“I like Mauricio’s Tottenham. They are aggressive, effective, treat the ball well and are ready to take advantage of pressing in small spaces. Tottenham represent this kind of football, fast-paced and defined by collective pressing.
“Sometimes people say Mauricio is too cool, too calm. But I’m sure the passion is raging inside his body. He’s always been able to keep that exterior calmness, ever since he turned pro at 17.
“But that temperament enables him to have a closer relationship with the players. You can see how the squad believes him and respond to his ideas.
“When we worked recently with Marcelo at Athletic Bilbao, Mauricio would always beat us with his Espanyol team. You can clearly see that strong connection with the team in Tottenham, too.”
Pochettino took his first managerial job at former club Espanyol, who were bottom of the league in January 2009, leading them to a comfortable position and a first victory away at local rivals Barcelona in 27 years.
“If there’s one thing that stands out from his time at Espanyol, it was the way he controlled everything at the club,” said Bona, a local reporter on the club.
“He changed lots of small details at Espanyol that other coaches wouldn’t have noticed, such as what and when the players ate, and he was a leader in everything that he did. You could see that people listened to him and were convinced by him.
“He arrived early in the morning and left late at night, which isn’t particularly common in Spanish football.
“He wants a team which works like a clock, where everything functions perfectly. Not just the players, but also everything which surrounds the team: the medical staff, his assistants, club officials and so on.”
Pochettino low-key a top three tactician in the world. He's been underrated for so long. Fantastic track record despite the fact he's won no major trophies. Easy to forget that he guided Espanyol to a sixth place finish and that he beat Peps Barca at their prime.
— Medo (@Mediostability) February 11, 2018
Pochettino then joined Southampton in 2013 as a controversial replacement for popular boss Nigel Adkins, but the second Argentine to manage in England quickly endeared himself to players and fans.
“I don’t have a life outside football,” he said, when interviewed in his early days.
“I spend about 12 hours per day at the training ground. Basically my life is to go from the hotel to the training ground.
“I am living fully dedicated to this club. In football there is not really a timetable, we just work all day long. I don’t consider this work, this club is a passion.”
During his 18 months at St Mary’s, Pochettino took Southampton from third-bottom when he joined to eighth place by the time he left in May 2014, with supporters furious that the club could not hold onto him.
“He’s world-class, not just as a manager, but as a person,” said former Saints man Lallana.
“The way he man-manages his players. He makes you feel good about yourself.
“He’s had a lot of time for us and I think it shows in how well we have performed for him. He has that way about him, he’s a cool guy.”
One player who hasn’t been the same since his Southampton days is Schneiderlin, who was lured away for a disappointing spell at Manchester United before ending up on the periphery at Everton.
“Mauricio Pochettino is someone who changed my perspective of how I see football and how I looked at myself,” the midfielder revealed.
“When I was at Southampton, everyone liked him. Everyone likes him now and we still have a good relationship. What he is doing as a manager with Tottenham is amazing.
“I hope he gets the title – if not this season, then I am sure he is going to get it in the next few years because when I watch Tottenham play, I just say, ‘Wow!’ It’s very entertaining.”
Its amazing the number of players Pochettino improved, took to another level, and"made look good" at @SouthamptonFC-almost all their careers haven't taken off since… Lovren,Lallana,Schneiderlin,Luke Shaw, Jay Rodriguez, Lambert, Calum Chambers/Only Wanyama's proven himself haha
— Deepz (@GeneralPoch) January 14, 2018
Cork was with Southampton for the entirety of Pochettino’s stay, before being sold six months after his departure.
“Things settled down quickly after Mauricio arrived,” Cork recalled. “It was always his way or no way, but we were a young team and he gave us confidence – and his message was always to enjoy our football.
“He was full of ideas. We went on a pre-season tour to Spain and he had organised a team-building exercise which involved an arrow. Each player had to place the point of the arrow into the soft tissue area of their throat while a team-mate held the other end. You then had to push against the arrow until it bent or snapped.
“There was always lots of running and a lot of training with Mauricio. At times it was very tough. You needed two hearts to play the Pochettino way. Kelvin Davis once brought the clock out of the dressing room to remind him how long the session had been.
“But his methods worked. We started the 2013-14 season with just one defeat in the first 11 league games.”
In January 2015, Pochettino found himself in the middle of a transfer storm with a number of Spurs players seeking an exit from the club, most notably Emmanuel Adebayor, who he then revealed he wanted to keep.
“I never promised my players that they will play,” he said as he recalled Aaron Lennon asking for a move to Everton in order to get more game-time.
“When you sign a contract as a player, you need to understand that you don’t sign to play, you sign to train.
“Then the club signs a manager or head coach to pick the players. This is football.”
In Balague’s book Brave New World: Inside Pochettino’s Spurs, he cites the Argentine’s motivational skills as key, referencing pep talks which aim to reignite the player’s love for the sport with long, passionate speeches.
“After such talks, the reaction is instantaneous,” Balague wrote.
“It can have miraculous effects because, after reminding them that this is not a job but something they used to love, it takes players deep into their consciences and they each go back to a certain point in their past.”
During his time as a coach in the England set-up, Neville wrote a column for the Daily Telegraph, in which he praised the new attitude of Spurs players under Pochettino.
“In my role as an England coach I have noticed the difference in psychology and application when Tottenham players come into the camp,” he stated.
“They now arrive prepared for the battle, ready to play, ready to work. They look like they want to partake in the meetings. All the things you would want from responsible players are there.
“It seems to me that Pochettino has given the younger players the confidence to express themselves, off the pitch as well.”
And said players aren’t afraid to back that up.
“From the outside everyone can see what he’s done for the club,” Alli told Steven Gerrard in an interview. “You’ll know as a player, you don’t need more confidence than a manager who tells you the truth.
“He’ll speak to you about your game, he’ll see it before you see it. He’ll pull you up on it, that’s one of the main things that I respect and love about him.
“It’s not always positive, he’ll tell you if you’re not working hard enough in training. Training is just as important as games.”
And while his style may earn him a lot of credit, Pochettino believes sticking to it is the main aim.
“Every coach and his staff have their own style, and the most important thing is to be consistent in what you do,” he said.
“It’s no use playing a certain way if you don’t believe in it, if it doesn’t make you smile and satisfied about playing football.
“Things can always change, but the most important thing is to never lose your way. Football is something that generates happiness and enjoyment, emotions – we’re generating emotions every minute.”
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