FCapital Manager of the Year: Mauricio Pochettino

A horrendous final day thrashing to a relegated Newcastle side saw Pochettino’s Spurs drop below North London neighbours Arsenal in the league table, but this defeat can be seen as a blip on what has been a terrific campaign for the Argentine. Upon his arrival at White Hart Lane Pochettino made an instant impact, guiding Tottenham to a 5th place league finish and a League Cup final. This year he’s surpassed all expectations, bringing through Tottenham’s talented youngsters and challenging for the title with a team whose average age of their starting XI was just 23 years old.

But who really is Mauricio Pochettino? Pochettino was born in Santa Fe in 1972 and was recruited by famous Argentine and then Newell’s Old Boys manager Marcelo Bielsa. The story goes that the famous manager, after which the club’s stadium Estadio Marcelo Bielsa is named, turned up at Pochettino’s house at 2am, inspected the 14 year olds strong legs and immediately offered him a contract. From that point on the man they called ‘El Loco’ had a huge impact on Pochettino’s footballing career, picking him in a side that won the Argentinean title in 1991 and reaching the final of the Copa Libertadores at the age of just 19. 

marcelo bielsa

He is like my father” – Pochettino when asked about Bielsa (above) earlier this year.

Bielsa gave Pochettino an opportunity which he promptly took, winning a move to Spanish side Espanyol in 1994. The Argentine flourished at the Catalan club, winning almost 300 caps and the Copa del Rey in 2000. After a brief spell in France with Paris St-Germain and later Bordeaux, Pochettino returned to Espanyol and won another Spanish Cup title, ending his playing career at the Barcelona-based side.

After three years away from the game Pochettino received an urgent request to take over the managerial role at Espanyol, with the Spanish side entrenched in a relegation battle. The high pressure attacking style and fluid formations that had been a feature of Bielsa’s football were now used by Pochettino, and a famous 2-1 victory over close rivals Barcelona ultimately ignited a run of great results which saw Espanyol finish the season comfortably clear of relegation. After a successful three years in charge of the Catalan club Pochettino lost his job due to a poor start to the 2012-13 season.

pochettino at southampton

Pochettino managed Southampton from January 2013 to May 2014.

Pochettino arrived at Southampton in January 2013 under intense scrutiny. A surprise appointment after the dismissal of popular manager Nigel Adkins, Pochettino came to the Saints with no managerial experience in the Premier League and with no knowledge of English. He soon proved his critics wrong however, keeping the Saints clear of relegation in his first year and guiding them to an eighth place finish in his second in front of a appreciative St Mary’s crowd.

His success at Southampton earned Pochettino a surprise appointment to North London club Tottenham at the end of the 2013/14 campaign, and Daniel Levy’s gamble on the Argentine has paid dividends, with Sir Alex Ferguson reportedly stating that he believes Pochettino to now be the best manager in the Premier League. Spurs have flourished under their new manager, and Bielsa’s offensive style has been used to great affect, transforming the North Londoners into the league’s second highest scorers. Few would have imagined at the start of this year that Tottenham would be challenging for the Premier League title come May, and much credit for this must go to Pochettino and his backroom staff.

Today marks the two year anniversary of Pochettino’s appointment to the Tottenham dugout, and after two fantastic seasons in charge Spurs fans can only hope that he sees out the remainder of his five year deal and continues to bring success to a young and exciting Tottenham team.

By Freddie Stuart.