Southampton Manager Mauricio Pochettino at Career Crossroads

Guillem BalagueFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2014


After a season that has seen Mauricio Pochettino take his Southampton side to an eighth-place Premier League finish, the former Argentinian international now finds himself at a crossroads in his career.

Proud in the knowledge that the Saints have enjoyed their most successful campaign in the history of the Premier League, he is understandably concerned about rumours in the press that the club is on the verge of selling much of the "family silver" to the bigger clubs.

Being a coach is all about making decisions, not least about your own position. Pochettino must now decide whether he wants to stay at a club that could potentially hamper its progress by selling off its best players or cash in on his success so far and jump ship.

If he decides that it's time to go, he will do so because he knows that to replace some of the brilliant young English players he has at the club, he will have to go shopping abroad—because as yet there is not enough quality in the junior sections ready to make the transition to the highest level in the club.

And if that happens, he also knows that he risks upsetting the mentality and stability presently enjoyed at the club.

Mind you, should he choose the latter option, it's fairly safe to say that he's not exactly short of suitors.

He was certainly offered the job at Olympique Marseilles, and when he turned it down immediately, the club gave it to another ex-Newell's Old Boys player, Marcelo Bielsa. There have also been approaches from Spurs and Newcastle, and my understanding is that an ailing AC Milan would also take him on in a heartbeat.

At Spurs the destination of the new manager's job is probably a two-horse race between him and present Ajax boss, Frank de Boer, with the Dutchman the bookies' slight favourite, although I believe the Spurs board is more inclined to take Pochettino and conversations have taken place already. Daniel Levy is a fan of the Argentinean coach and is rejecting the possibility of negotiating with other managers that are being proposed to him till he takes those conversations with Mauricio as far as they can be taken. He expects to convince the manager to become the next Spurs boss.

So what is it about his way of playing and style that captivated the attention of the footballing world?

In the first place, everything he does is based on a total belief in his ideas about how the game should be played. More importantly, however, he believes firmly in communicating that style and making sure that everyone understands perfectly what is required.

Since his arrival at the club, players and coaches alike have been amazed at his levels of intensity and commitment as he strives to get his ideas across.

Drills and exercises are designed with the specific intention of dealing with situations that he looks to create during matches and are adjusted constantly to those ends. He prepares new drills if he thinks the way the team is building from the back is not correct in the most recent game—and he does so on the same night of the game.

It would be incorrect to describe his type of football as tiki-taka, although it is one fundamentally based on high intensity and possession of the ball.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25:  Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino looks on during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Southampton and Yeovil Town at St Mary's Stadium on January 25, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Ima
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Not everyone understands the concept of the game, and not everyone has the bottle to continue with it when, occasionally, it goes awry. But Pochettino, just like a certain Pep Guardiola, believes in the idea.

And, in fact, there are many similarities between the two managers who were adversaries in the same city when Pep was in charge at Barcelona and Pochettino was in the hot seat at Espanyol.

For both of them, their playing system is built on three basic premises: the level of intensity, the level of belief and an obsession with the job at hand.

Now Pochettino must spend a bit of thinking time wondering how he is going to map out his immediate future. It should be an interesting few days.