As the full-time whistle brought an end to proceedings at the Bernabéu, last night, and Tottenham Hotspur celebrated a watershed moment in their existence as a football club, it was easy to forget just how far Mauricio Pochettino has taken Spurs.
Six years ago, Harry Redknapp had entered the iconic Los Blancos stadium, with his Only Fools & Horses yellow van, and out jumped a group of players, that only now, we understand were nothing more than a bunch of Chuckle Brothers.
Pochettino’s achievements, last night, officially put an end to any suggestion that what Redknapp did during his time at White Hart Lane was nothing apart from the incompetence of those teams around the Lilywhites; Pochettino’s success is nothing of the sort, this is a manager who has taken Spurs to the next level.
Now to see if Pochettino is more tactically astute at the Bernabeu than Harry Redknapp was pic.twitter.com/7VSitdRFS3
— Richard Martin (@Rich9908) October 17, 2017
In gathering round television sets to watch Zinedine Zidane and Mauricio Pochettino go toe-to-toe on the sidelines, football fans were watching the two most impressive managers currently in the game.
Zizou may well have landed on his feet as a Madrid legend, but to those that discredit the finest attacking-midfielder of all-time, it only takes a glance over to what Pep ‘given everything on a plate’ Guardiola is doing in Manchester, to know those claims are nothing more than ignorance and/or bitterness.
Zidane’s time at the Bernabéu will eventually end, and no doubt in tempestuous circumstances, as Florentino Perez’s Galacticos obsession only intensifies. And the pre-match suggestion that Los Blancos are already interested in making Pochettino the next Real Madrid manager were always going to hover above this fixture.
Pochettino walking through the streets of Madrid like pic.twitter.com/6MBIsczzRT
— Raphael Harris (@rapharris_) October 17, 2017
And the Pochettino tactical masterclass, last night, will only fuel Perez’s desire to make the former Southampton manager his next hire; Fernando Llorente coming in to support Kane, a target man who knows La Liga and Real Madrid, was inspired (although forced due to injuries and suspensions), whilst Harry Winks’ intricacy, Eric Dier’s strength and Moussa Sissoko’s energy was the perfect balance in upsetting the Madrid maestros of Luka Modric and Isco, in midfield.
Pochettino, as he has done at Espanyol and Southampton, has proved himself to be a manager who fully understands you have to play the opposition, rather than your best XI; the former Paris Saint-Germain player understands his opponents better than they do themselves. However, that’s simply not the Real Madrid way.
It’s not to say Pochettino can’t give the Real Madrid boardroom the swashbuckling, all-out-attacking football that they crave like a drug. However, would Pochettino be willing to sacrifice his managerial principles?
The Argentine is everything Real Madrid need, but the problem in Pochettino moving to the Bernabéu is that he’d have to become everything Real Madrid are; there’s no sacrifice or acceptance of change at Madrid, despite the fact they’ve been crying out for a tactically astute manager, who can combine exciting football, since the end of Vicente del Bosque’s second stint in 2003.
Zidane is already showing signs of bowing to boardroom pressure, with this season for the Frenchman looking like a chaotic and tactics-free struggle, already.
If Madrid aren’t willing to give a little, then Pochettino’s reign in Spain will be shorter than Rafael Benitez’s 25-game stint at the helm.
Maybe Poch is the one to break the tunnel-vision in Madrid, but the football Gods know that greater managers than him have tried.