Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy has spoken of how difficult it was to sack Mauricio Pochettino earlier in the campaign and has opened the door for a possible return to the club for the manager further down the line.
Pochettino took Tottenham to the UEFA Champions League final in June, where they were eventually beaten by Liverpool. However, the coach was sacked after a disappointing start to the 2019-20 term, with Jose Mourinho coming in to replace him.
Speaking to the Evening Standard's James Olley, Levy was asked if the decision to sever ties with Pochettino was the most challenging managerial call he's ever had to make:
"You have to understand I had built up a personal relationship with Mauricio over five-and-a-half years
"It is not something I ever wanted. Personally, it was incredibly difficult, I told him that and he understood. He's been in football, he understands. It's not personal, and I'm sure he'll come back stronger and get an opportunity to manage another great club."
When asked if Pochettino could one day return to the dugout at the Tottenham Hotspur, Levy said: "Why not? I don’t close the door on anything."
On the day Pochettino was given his marching orders by Tottenham, Sky Sports Statto summed up how well he had done to turn the club around:
However, there was something missing from the team this season, as Spurs lacked the trademark intensity and organisation that had made them such a force under Pochettino. They had won just five Premier League matches when Tottenham made the call to remove him in November.
Mourinho was immediately appointed as his successor, and Levy said the Portuguese coach was always his top choice to take over from Pochettino: "I can't remember when I first spoke to Jose, but once I made the decision in my mind we had to make the change, although internally we knew of more than one candidate who would have been interested, Jose was absolutely number one."
Levy added that Spurs and Mourinho are "totally aligned" on the club's strategy moving forward.
Given Mourinho's reputation for quick success and eventual degradation at clubs, it will be fascinating to see how he fares under Levy at Tottenham. At the moment, Spurs are moving in the right direction and will be a threat in race for the Champions League, FA Cup and Premier League's top four in 2020.
Pochettino may not have won silverware at Spurs, but he's regarded as one of the best managers in the game. When an elite job does become available, there's no doubt he'll be a top candidate for it.