Wednesday 23 October 2019, 08:57

Pochettino: It all comes down to character

  • Mauricio Pochettino was a finalist for The Best FIFA Men's Coach 2019

  • Talks exclusively about the challenges he faces, the possibility of one day taking the Argentina job

  • Pochettino: "I need to feel the adrenaline of having a match every three days"

Last season’s UEFA Champions League runners-up have had a difficult start to the new campaign. After slumping to a heavy defeat at home to Bayern Munich and being held to a draw at Olympiacos, Tottenham Hotspur earned some respite with a big win over Crvena Zvezda on Tuesday. The London club will need to keep on winning, however, if they are to match or surpass last season’s achievement.

That run to the 2019 final was instrumental in Mauricio Pochettino being named a finalist for The Best FIFA Men’s Coach award, which ultimately went to Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, the man who masterminded Tottenham’s defeat at the Estadio Metropolitano in Madrid in May.

We asked the Argentinian coach for his views on 2019, the challenges he faces and the possibility of one day taking the Albiceleste job. How would you sum up last season, which saw you become a finalist for The Best?

Mauricio Pochettino: It was an absolutely fantastic year, a wonderful one for the club in terms of the project it’s pursuing. The road was long and it ended with a Champions League final. It was a massive achievement for the club and we got there thanks to the hard work of a lot of people: the players, the coaching staff and the many other people working around them. To be one of the three finalists for The Best was an honour, but as the coach I represent the fantastic job done by so many others, like the coaching staff, club staff and the team, who all did really well.

What do you think is the main asset a coach can use to convince a team they can succeed and make it happen?

I think it all comes down to character – your character, leadership, charisma and natural energy. I think that’s where the secret lies, in your ability to empathise with your players. After that it’s a question of earning respect and recognition through the way you play. It’s a complex sport and players need their leader to show them the way the whole time. They need to be given the confidence to believe that if they do what you say they’ll be close to success. Because that’s really what we’re all looking for: to have the confidence to develop and apply our talent as best we can.

Which do you find more enjoyable: playing or coaching?

(Laughs) I think there’s a time for everything. When I was very young, football was the most important thing in my life along with my family. I really enjoyed that part of my career and now I’m really enjoying my time coaching. You have to live life to the full and not have that regret that you could have done more, you could have enjoyed things more. Every phase in your life has something about it and I’ve enjoyed all of them. I’m on the other side of the touchline now because I can’t do anything else at my age (laughs).

Mauricio Pochettino, manager of Tottenham Hotspur

You’re an Argentinian coach with an impressive career in Spain as a player and a coach, and now here you are in England. What is the Premier League teaching you?

I think I’ve changed on a personal level because I’ve been able to discover a different culture and learn a different language. I’ve grown so much as a person.

In terms of football, it’s now a global sport. Thanks to the media and social media, we have easy access to football from all over the world. I think we already know about methodologies and ways of doing things and the most important thing is the unique aspects and the culture that you learn about when you live in a country. You draw on that every day to improve and learn and you have to be alert to it. The most important thing is how you react to it on a personal level, the maturity to need to take in different experiences.

Changing the subject, would you be tempted if Argentina came calling?

Your country is always there. Argentina will always be in my heart, but it’s also true that they’re emotions that don’t always come at the right time. I might be keen to do it and the motivation is there, but now is not the right time. Right now I’m enjoying the day-to-day side of things, being out on the pitch with my coaching team and my players, and having a game every week or every three days. I’d find it hard to get the adrenaline that comes with playing every week if there was just one game a month or every two months. I don’t know. I think I’m at a stage in my footballing career and my life where I need to feel the adrenaline of having a match every three days.

What are you hoping for this season?

We have a lot of objectives and dreams. Winning a trophy with Tottenham would be huge, an enormous achievement for the club. That’s what I’m hoping for: winning a trophy with my club.

The Best FIFA Men's Coach Award finalist Mauricio Pochettino, Head Coach of Tottenham Hotspur poses