• Manchester United have also been linked to Argentinian
• Pochettino’s stock rising after Champions League progress
Tottenham are braced for further interest in Mauricio Pochettino after the manager enhanced his reputation with Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Barcelona – a result that carried his team into the Champions League knockout rounds.
It is an open secret at the club that they expect a fight to keep Pochettino at the end of the season with Real Madrid, in particular, monitoring his progress. Real sacked Julen Lopetegui at the end of October and turned to Santiago Solari, initially on a caretaker basis. In mid-November they gave him a contract until 2021. Manchester United are also admirers and considered him after the departure of Louis van Gaal in 2016 only to appoint José Mourinho.
Tottenham’s players believe Pochettino will have a decision to make at the end of the season, with Danny Rose saying talk of an elite-level rival moving for him is simply a result of the job he has done at Spurs.
Although the Argentinian has yet to win a trophy, he has established the club at Champions League level on a relative shoestring budget while contending with the delays and escalating costs of the new stadium. He has also had to cope with using Wembley as the team’s temporary home for the past 18 months.
Pochettino’s greatest asset is his ability to improve players and he has not hesitated to give academy products their chance. He started Kyle Walker-Peters against Barcelona although the 21-year-old right-back made an error for the home side’s goal.
“It’s no coincidence that every day you read Real Madrid want him or United want him,” Rose added. “It’s exactly what he deserves. What he has done here in the last four or five years has been amazing. He has transformed how others think of us outside the club and he has transformed how we think of ourselves and how we approach big games.
“The belief he gives everybody is just amazing. For example, Kyle Walker-Peters made a mistake in Barcelona but it will not affect what the manager thinks of him. He will stick with Kyle no matter what. That’s the sort of man he is: once you win his trust it will take an awful lot to break that. He has been amazing for myself and this club, and we hope he is here for a very long time.”
Rose brought up Pochettino’s transfer spend to illustrate how he has got the most out of the resources at his disposal. Spurs did not make any signings last summer and Rose does not expect to see any in January either. Since the manager’s arrival in the summer of 2014 his net spend on permanent fees is £40.25m.
“It’s no secret all the teams have spent a lot more than what we have,” Rose said. “The manager did not make any signings in the summer and he is probably not going to make any in January. Why do I say that? Well, I’ve not heard anything so I am guessing. So for him to do what he has done and what he is doing now speaks volumes. Like I said, it’s no coincidence big teams are being linked with him.”
Pochettino was asked on the eve of the Barça match to explain how he had been able to improve Spurs again, despite the lack of summer arrivals. It was an opportunity for him to remind a largely Spanish audience of the quality of his work, but the real PR came during the 90 minutes at the Camp Nou.
Although Barcelona rested a number of regulars there was still international-level class in their lineup and Tottenham came to dominate in the second half. Before Tuesday, Barça’s home record in the Champions League read: W26 D2 L0. Spurs’ result was certainly eye-opening, as was the amount of time that Pochettino spent in friendly conversation with Spanish journalists in the press room. He did the same before and after last season’s Champions League draw at Real Madrid.
Spurs want to play the first leg of their last 16 tie – scheduled for either 12-13 February or 19-20 February – at their new stadium, although the timing promises to be tight. The club hope to be in situ, at the latest, for either the Premier League game against Newcastle on 2 February or Leicester the following Saturday.
They announced on Wednesday that the match against Manchester United on 13 January will be held at Wembley but beyond that the situation remains unclear. “What I don’t want to do is set any firm dates until we have finally achieved a safety certificate,” said the chairman, Daniel Levy.
The club must tell Uefa of their plans for the Champions League by the end of January. A Uefa statement said: “A decision will be taken in due course and in any case before February 2019.”