For five years, Mauricio Pochettino has endured austerity and transfer window disappointments while navigating the toughest league in the world and yet, the Argentine has managed to take his squad to the Champions League final in Madrid.
In this case “his” squad holds sway more than any other manager’s as Poch has meticulously developed most of the players in his team. While the club was bearing the expense of building a modern stadium, Pochettino was denied expensive, world class players. Instead, he developed youngsters like Harry Kane, Harry Winks and Danny Rose and with the help of the master negotiator Daniel Levy struck bargain deals in the market, notably for Alderweireld, Lucas Moura and Heung-Min Son.
Like his opponent on Saturday, Poch likes to employ a high-pressing offensive style of football. They harass opposing players into surrendering possession and are also solid defensively without the ball. Spurs have been improving year after year with him at the helm and are starting to feel at home in the Champions League.
The Argentine has never won a trophy though and that weighs heavily against him. Not even a league cup or FA Cup to show for. In football, if you’re not bringing back home medals and trophies, you phase out of memory quickly. All this could change at the weekend. Poch could bring to London the biggest trophy in the game.
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He is already one of the greatest Spurs manager in the club’s history, having taken them to their first ever final in Europe, against all odds. The road to the final was no piece of cake either. Spurs faced Barcelona, PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan in the group of death and came excruciatingly close to being dumped out of the competition early.
In the round of 16, they dispatched Dortmund, followed by one of the most entertaining ties in this year’s tournament, where they eliminated eventual English champions Manchester City. In the semi finals, they came back from a 1-0 loss at home to defeat Ajax in the Netherlands, courtesy of a Lucas Moura hatrick.
Now they face Liverpool, a team they have beaten only once in their last fourteen head to heads. Jurgen Klopp’s team are favorites, of course, but Spurs can still pull off a an upset. In the past 10 editions of the Champions League, only one outsider has won the trophy. That was another team from London, Chelsea, who beat Bayern Munich in 2012.
Poch has been busy at work and even using unorthodox techniques to prepare his players. He has enlisted the help of a motivational coach, who put the team through fire walking and arrows to the throat, in a bid to quash their fears before the game. Whether that works or not remains to be seen.
Mauricio Pochettino is on the verge of a fantastic achievement, personally and also for his club. Win or lose, he has earned respect in the game and shown an example on how to build a team on limited resources.
La mejor suerte, Mauricio.
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