Tottenham may be out of Europe but their reputation has soared under Mauricio Pochettino

by Andy Dillon / 09 March 2018, 11:46

MAURICIO POCHETTINO and Barack Obama have more in common than you might think.

In 2009 Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, the first Afro-American to hold the office of most powerful man in the world.

Surprisingly, not so much global attention was paid to Pochettino starting his managerial career in football at roughly the same time; winding up his days as an uncompromising centre half to take over at perennial Spanish underachievers Espanyol.

But which one is still in a job?

Pochettino, now at Tottenham, is facing another critical examination of his credentials this week after Spurs were knocked out of the Champions League.

In nine years as a manager, Pochettino hasn’t won a trophy; not a pot. The stigma of this so far futile quest is hanging round his neck instead of a shiny, winners’ medal.

With football moving at such a pace these days it is understandable that less tangible achievements are quickly forgotten.

Obama introduced universal health care of sorts in the fiercely capitalist USA. It’s a radical policy now being systematically unravelled by his dogmatic successor Donald Trump.

Obama also introduced a raft of green initiatives and was a card carrying member of the 2015 Paris Climate Change agreement in an unprecedented move by the biggest polluters on the planet.

All very well, but far more seismic than that is what Pochettino has accomplished at Tottenham.

Wind back to 2009 and while Poch began cutting his teeth in Spain’s La Liga, Spurs were busy finishing eighth in the Premier League.

That season they were also knocked out in the round of 32 in the old UEFA Cup by Shakhtar Donetsk.

It hardly seems possible that such a short time ago the same club which took Juventus to the wire on Wednesday would have been satisfied with such measly pickings.

Pochettino took over at Tottenham in 2014, picking up the pieces after two disappointing managers in Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood who failed to take them on to new heights.

Harry Redknapp set the foundations in place by taking Tottenham into the Champions League for the first time of course and those epic matches with Real Madrid and Inter with Gareth Bale in his team.

Redknapp is the charming symbol of a different kind of approach to football; one where you try your utmost to win but where entertainment is also a key factor.

And who has not been spellbound by Tottenham this season even just a little?

Harry Kane’s goalscoring, Dele Alli’s misfiring and mastery in equal measure, Christian Eriksen, English hope Harry Winks and the clinical finishing of unsung hero Son. Tottenham have given football plenty of razzmatazz.

Where Pochettino doesn’t help himself is by careless words which have come back to haunt him. The Argentine fell into the trap of most modern managers by placing pursuit of the Champions League at the expense of everything else.

He dismissed the FA Cup while being zoned in on Juventus. The gamble nearly worked but collapsed brutally in midweek and now all he is left with is trying to win a trophy he derided as unable to ‘change anything’.

Instead Pochettino basked in the glory of a 2-2 draw at Juventus in the first leg of their last 16 tie, quietly thinking qualification into the quarters was in the bag.

He failed to realise that the Italians are vastly experienced having played in two of the last three Champions League finals and it bit him on the backside.

Pochettino is criticised for not having won anything of note yet when he has earned Tottenham a big reputation in Europe now.

But he hasn’t learned that nine years is really not long at all and his players are still babies in the big league.

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