Mauricio Pochettino returns to Tottenham on Monday evening for the first time since his sacking almost exactly four years ago and, before doing so, has refused to rule out the possibility of managing the club again.
The Chelsea manager spent five years at Spurs, a period in which they finished second in the Premier League and reached the final of the Champions League.
The Argentinian’s time also involved a successful move to a hugely impressive new stadium and, as such, it was no surprise to hear him speak effusively about going back to the venue, albeit he is braced for a potentially hostile welcome from a crowd that once adored him.
Pochettino insisted his “emotional links and feelings” are “not going to be broken” by the sound of home supporters booing him and his love for Spurs is such that he can envisage returning there on a permanent basis. “Who knows,” said the 51-year-old when asked if he stands by his desire to win a trophy with the club before he dies, something Pochettino outlined as a personal ambition in April 2020, six months after being dismissed by the chairman, Daniel Levy. “It’s like life, you never know what is going to happen tomorrow. We need to enjoy today and not look too much in the future. But, for sure, if I’m not working, [and] maybe if they want me one day … why not?”
Pochettino has been linked with a return to Spurs on various occasions since leaving the club in November 2019, including prior to Ange Postecoglou’s appointment in June, which he was supposedly open to having been sacked by Paris Saint-Germain last year, and his latest comments are unlikely to go down well with Chelsea supporters. However, it should be noted that Pochettino also expressed a desire to remain at Stamford Bridge for some time – “Hopefully I can stay here until I die!” – and, overall, sought not to insult the intelligence of either side of the London rivalry that will play out in the north of the capital on Monday.
“We cannot underestimate the Chelsea and Tottenham fans,” he said. “The Chelsea fans know we were at Tottenham, and the situation in the Champions League and the Battle of the Bridge … are we going to hide this emotion? No, it’s impossible. And I cannot say I forget all the things [at Tottenham], that would be stupid. I’m going to be natural and show every game that I want to win. And at the same time I want to enjoy being at a place I was part of the process of creating something special there. I am really calm and I want to enjoy and hope for a good night for us.”
Chelsea are seeking to get back to winning ways in the Premier League after their loss to Brentford, something Pochettino recognises will not be easy against opponents who lead the way and, in his opinion, are genuine title contenders. The visitors can take heart, however, from winning four of their past six visits to Spurs as well as the possibility of the captain, Reece James, making a second successive start after playing 61 minutes of Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Blackburn in the Carabao Cup following a hamstring injury.
“I want to win, I want to beat them,” said Pochettino before insisting he will not head for the wrong dugout before kick-off on Monday, ala Ron Aktinson in the late 1990s. “I know very well the away dugout because I decided where it was,” he said. “I was there with the architects; when you go to the right it is the local, and the away is to the left.”