Spurs boss: I wanted to prove to current stars and prospective signings that I’m staying
Mauricio Pochettino says he felt compelled to confirm his commitment to Tottenham to prove to the club’s current stars and prospective signings that he will be staying at White Hart Lane.
The future of Spurs’ head coach has been the subject of speculation in recent months, and the Argentine hardly helped matters on Wednesday when he told a French radio station that it is “part of [his] dreams” to manage Paris Saint-Germain.
But he responded promptly two days later, surprising his players and members of the Lilywhites’ staff by announcing in his weekly press conference that he had verbally agreed a two-year contract extension which will keep him in north London until 2021.
It was a significant moment in a key period for the club as they seek to keep their most influential players while also drawing up a list of targets for this summer’s transfer window, and the 44-year-old said: “I think it is important for the players and the potential players that will come that they don’t hear rumours about whether Pochettino will be here or not.
“We are ready to compete in the market and to try to add the players that can help us in the future - not that we need much because we have a good squad already.
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“Of course we are responsible to show we believe in the club, and then we show we want to keep all the big, important players. They are important to our future.
“I think it is a good time [to announce the extension] because we need to be focused now on finishing first of all - either to win the title or come second.
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“It is important that all the focus is on football and trying to win games and to prepare for next season. It is important that we are not wasting time with rumours and different things - to work very hard to try to prepare.”
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy now faces the task of rewarding the players who have exceeded expectations so impressively this season, and ensuring that they also remain at the Lane for the long term, while also keeping the club’s wage bill under control.
“I think we have very clever people at the top,” said Pochettino. “Our president is very clever with how he manages and builds with that, and I think it is normal - if you achieve, you want more. But the players want to stay here and bring this club to the new stadium and play in the Champions League. It is a collective objective.”
Asked what assurances he sought from Levy before agreeing his new contract, Pochettino said: “I don’t need assurances, I didn’t ask for anything.
“In the moment that the president wanted to extend my contract he showed his ambition. The players are very happy here. I want to be involved in the future of the club.
“I had a big respect for this club when Tottenham offered me the job, when I came from Southampton, and I feel the responsibility to stay here and try to help the club in this period - a very important period. To arrive to the new stadium with a very good team but to be competitive is a very good challenge in the next few seasons.
“We need to keep this philosophy and the mentality we share now. It is a good legacy for the club in the future. Tottenham is a big club and needs to show it is a big club.
“This season was important. After 10 or 12 games we started to believe that we are a big club and we started to behave like a big club and show good performances. Maybe it was missing in the first 10 games and that is now the gap with Leicester.
“I think the future is fantastic for Tottenham, who have unbelievable supporters, a new stadium, incredible facilities and they can become a top club and fight every season to be the top club. Whether they can achieve that is different, but it is important early next season to fight for it.
“I think I explained a lot of times that we are ahead of time in our project. I speak very well on our squad and our players but our aim is to arrive in the new stadium and play in the Champions League and to play on the top.”
A number of Tottenham’s rivals face a summer of upheaval - Manchester City and Chelsea will both have new managers next season, while it remains unclear whether Manchester United will replace Louis van Gaal.
Pochettino said: “Maybe that’s the first time in history that has happened? To be consistent for the club is fantastic and to have a clear idea and follow a philosophy is an advantage.”
For now, Spurs are focused on tomorrow night’s (Monday’s) trip to Chelsea. With league leaders Leicester City drawing 1-1 away against Manchester United today, Tottenham are still in the title race - but they must win at Stamford Bridge to stay in contention into the final two weeks of the campaign; something they have been unable to do since 1990. Motivation is certainly not an issue in the Spurs squad.
“We spoke before with Jesus [Perez, the assistant head coach] and all the staff and it is unbelievable,” said Pochettino. “We have experience in other teams and always at the end of the season it is difficult because the players are tired, fatigued - not only physically but also mentally. But in the way we are training every day, sometimes we need to stop them and say ‘stop, stop’ because it is too much, because the motivation is massive.
“We can help with my new contract but our players are very, very motivated [anyway] to play on Monday against Chelsea.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs