EFL Cup Semi-Final Showdown: Mauricio Pochettino vs Maurizio Sarri

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 07 January 2019, 13:31

WEMBLEY hosts the Mo show in which two trophyless coaches slug it out for the Holy Grail of finally getting their hands on a cup.

Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino has a glittering reputation as a man-manager and is allegedly wanted by Manchester United and Real Madrid despite winning nothing more than four Manager of the Month awards.

Maurizio Sarri is the Italian trying to establish a reputation in England while trying to re-establish Chelsea as serious title contenders.

There’s nothing more glittering on this former banker’s CV than Serie A manager of the year in 2017.

They are two vastly different characters chasing the same thing - the official acknowledgement that they have what it takes to lead a team all the way to silverware.

Pochettino was known as an uncompromising Argentinian centre-half (aren’t they all?) who played in Spain’s La Liga and for Paris St.Germain

Sarri played pub league as a defender then worked in high finance before deciding he fancied full-time football.

And Chelsea’s manager, 59, should already be receiving huge credit for simply holding down the job as one of the most powerful men in European football when 20 years ago he was working in a bank and coaching part-time.

Karl Power is the name that springs to mind whenever I think of Sarri in depth - but in the most complimentary way.

Karl was the unemployed Mancunian building labourer who made photo-bombing an art form. Nicknamed ‘Fat Neck’, this artful dodger sneaked into Manchester United’s team line up picture before a Champions League game at Bayern Munich in 2001.

He even told Gary Neville to button it when he was challenged by the United defender.

Karl was eventually rumbled but got away with it time after time and is remembered for his steel balls as opposed to Beckham’s golden ones.

There is a feeling inside me that makes me wonder just whether Sarri will one day be uncovered as an arch-imposter. That his rise from banker to Chelsea head coach has been a brilliant prank and he’ll run off laughing.

But that feeling only comes from the sheer admiration of the man who dealt in foreign exchange until he was 40 and who now tells Eden Hazard how to play football.

Sit and ponder that for a moment and the true enormity of Sarri’s achievement hits you like a shot from Alvaro Morata (it will miss though, don’t worry).

Simply to go from city trader to standing on a touchline in a baggy tracksuit with a plastic fag in his mouth, yelling at Olivier Giroud, Willian, David Luiz and Marcos Alonso is worthy of a trophy in itself.

Pochettino played more than six years in Spain and umpteen more in France and in his native South America. He came into management as an Argentina international; with a World Cup on his CV.

Much is made of the fact neither of these two coaches have won a major pot and the pressure is cranking up on them to deliver. That is the price modern managers pay unfortunately when never more has it been a results business.

But of the two Sarri can sit back and take stock of his life in a far more assured way than the bloke who will be opposite him at Wembley battling for a place in the Carabao Cup final.

Sarri is 13 years older than Pochettino but in terms of finally getting his hands on a cup has far more time on his side.


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