When the camera honed in on Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager was a cocktail of emotion, jubilation, and fatigue.
In stark contrast, Pochettino’s opposite managerial number that night, Erik ten Hag, was completely crushed.
This moment came almost exactly two years ago when Tottenham conjured up one of the great Champions League comebacks against Ajax to secure a place in the 2018/19 Final.
Pochettino, who lost out to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool a few weeks later, has since gone on to take charge of PSG who themselves are two legs away from Europe’s showpiece spectacular.
Meanwhile, ten Hag remains at the helm of Ajax, but for how much longer?
The Dutchman, who was reportedly in contention for the Chelsea job in January, has burst into the mix for the Tottenham vacancy after bookmakers slashed his odds from 33/1 to just 6/1 in the betting to replace Jose Mourinho.
The 51-year-old can still be backed at a best-priced 10/1 with Bet Victor, while he’s a 16/1 shot for the Bayern Munich job, and has also been linked with a move to Frankfurt should Adi Hutter leave for Borussia Monchengladbach.
There’s not yet been any official concrete interest from the trio of clubs, yet the attraction of ten Hag is obvious. You could even throw Juventus into the mix too if Andrea Pirlo leaves.
Ten Hag has stayed true to Ajax’s trademark philosophy of free-flowing, technical, intelligent and winning football with a primary focus on developing homegrown talent.
The club’s incredible 2018/19 side featured an exciting crop of players, including Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Hakim Ziyech, and Donny van de Beek who have all since been gobbled up by Europe’s elite for a combined £225m.
Ajax may have missed out on the Champions League trophy that year, but ten Hag did lead his side to their first domestic league and cup double since 2002. Ajax were then joint leaders last season only for the league to be cancelled because of coronavirus, however another double is on the cards this campaign with the KNVB Cup lifted last week while they are 11 points clear at the summit of the Eredivisie with a game in hand.
Ten Hag’s done a fantastic job in Amsterdam where he has accrued a 73.29% win rate from 161 games, with an eye-popping 432 goals scored. But, this summer could be the right time to take on an exciting new challenge.
He previously managed Bayern Munich’s second team and should the Bavarian outfit come calling for his services for the top job he’d surely jump at the chance to return.
Meanwhile, the Premier League is a hotbed of elite managers and exciting talents, with the new Tottenham vacancy catching the attention of both out-of-work and in-work managers across the continent.
One of the significant reasons behind Mourinho’s exit was his style of football. Tottenham knew what they were getting when they appointed the Portuguese coach, yet while they impressed at times during his spell, they became increasingly reactive, defensive and uninspired, much to the frustration of fans who craved the brave, high-intensity and fast-paced football on display during the Pochettino era.
Erik ten Hag could be just what Tottenham are after
At Ajax, ten Hag adopts an attractive, possession and attack-minded approach, which has drawn comparisons to Pep Guardiola, this isn’t a huge surprise given that the duo worked together at Bayern Munich.
This season, ten Hag’s side have thundered in a whopping 86 goals in just 28 league games - they even won 13-0 in October - and conceded just 20 so far. Unbeaten since December, they’ve been a joy to watch through their fluid play, mobility, circulation of the ball, and intricate passing combinations.
The manager gets his players to express themselves on the pitch, to showcase flair and to be fearless.
An appointment at Tottenham could also open up a pathway to sign Ajax’s current crop of stars, including Ryan Gravenberch, Perr Schuurs and Devyne Rensch plus the Brazilian duo of Antony and David Neres. Meanwhile, ten Hag’s track-record of developing young stars could see him utilise Spurs’ academy prospects.
Julian Nagelsmann is believed to be Tottenham’s number one target, however ten Hag should definitely be on the club’s radar.
Scroll down for the full list of odds in the next Tottenham manager market...
Next Tottenham Hotspur Manager Odds
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