Spurs boss hails retiring Friedel but may deny him a farewell game
Mauricio Pochettino says it has been a privilege to work with Brad Friedel as Tottenham’s veteran goalkeeper prepares to retire at the end of the season.
However, the head coach has refused to confirm whether he will give the American a final appearance, stressing Spurs’ bid to secure a Europa League place must take priority over sentimentality.
Friedel – who turns 44 on Monday - will return to his homeland this summer to become an analyst, pundit and co-commentator for Fox Sports, while being Tottenham’s club ambassador in the United States.
He holds the record for consecutive starts in the Premier League, making the starting-up line-up in 310 successive top-flight fixtures, but he has not played for over a year, since last season’s Europa League exit against Benfica in March 2014.
And, although fans of clubs across the Premier League would no doubt like to see Friedel get a farewell game against either Hull or Everton in the next 10 days, Pochettino says he will be choosing his line-ups with his head, not his heart.
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“Always we need to be professional,” he said at today’s press conference. “We have our emotion, but always in football you need to take a decision as a professional and we always need to show we are professional, and this is the way we always take.”
Asked if it would be easier to pick Friedel for the last game at Everton if Spurs have already secured a top-six spot, Pochettino replied: “Maybe yes, but it’s true we are in a run to try to get the Europa League, to finish as high as possible in the table. After that, in football, you never know.
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“It [today’s announcement] is a very special moment for him. It’s a real pleasure to work with him and to know him because he’s a top man, a top professional and it was fantastic to spend time with him this season.”
“It’s not easy [to play] at 44 but all his career he was very professional, he was one of the best keepers in England.
“I think he’s crossed the line now because he wants to, not because his body says ‘I cannot play any more’. He’s at a very good level in his physical condition. It was a very good thing to know him because he’s a fantastic professional, a top man and it was a real pleasure to work with him this season.”
Pochettino believes Friedel could return to the Premier League as a manager one day.
“Why not?” he said. “Brad is a very clever person and with his natural energy and his leadership he can easily manage a team in the Premier League – only if he wants to, and wants to take that way in his future.
“But if he’s ready and he’s experienced - and he’s learned a lot about football in all of his career - I think it’s possible in the next few seasons he can manage.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs