Mauricio Pochettino is not surprised to be on the long-list of candidates to replace Luis Enrique at Barcelona in the summer. The Tottenham Hotspur manager has long been aware of how the football business works and suggested that this was merely a manifestation of it.
“It’s a big list – 100 names,” Pochettino said, with a smile. Luis Enrique had announced on Wednesday night that he would stand down as the Barcelona manager at the end of the season. “It’s like if I go [from Tottenham] – I see a list of 50 names to replace me,” Pochettino continued. “Not 100! I always tell you, I know it [the football business] very well. I understand very well the business and you do, too.
“I don’t take this as being flattering. I just understand that we are at one of the biggest clubs in Europe – because, for me, Tottenham is one of the biggest clubs – and you can see that we play very good football, we have an exciting team and very good players. So it’s normal that we’ve called the attention of the rest of the clubs, of football people around the world. We are one of the exciting teams to watch but I don’t take it as flattering. Only that we are part of that business and our names always appear on the lists.”
Pochettino repeated a phrase that he had used previously in January to illustrate how football and its machinations were deeply ingrained upon him. “I was born with a ball in my arms,” he said. “Not a bull, a ball.”
The last comment was an attempt to clarify the confusion and some wild Chinese whispers that had surrounded his use of the phrase after Tottenham Hotspur’s FA Cup victory over Aston Villa on 8 January. Back then, it was reported by the BBC that he had said he was “born with a bull in my arms” – in response to a question about speculation that had linked him to the Barcelona job.
For reasons that remain unclear, the erroneous quotation was then interpreted as being a reference to his history as a player and manager at Espanyol – Barcelona’s cross-town rivals – and how he could, therefore, not envisage himself working at Barcelona.
“No, what I’m trying to explain is that I know very well the business, the football,” Pochettino said. “When I was born, my mum and my dad put not a bull but a ball in my arms. It’s a metaphorical example to say that I understand football and the business. I understand that my name will be on a list.”
So, in the interests of clarity, Pochettino was asked whether his previous with Espanyol would make it impossible for him to manage Barcelona. “I don’t want to speak because if you speak too much or if you speak, it’s possible that people can twist my words,” he replied. “I can only say that I am happy here [at Tottenham]. I understand the business and I can understand that my name is on some list – like if I go and there appears some list of managers who are at other clubs. It’s normal in football today.”
Pochettino knows the business extremely well. Only a fool would rule out a link to Barcelona.