Spurs boss Pochettino clarifies ‘bull in the arm’ comment amid Barcelona rumours
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Argentine explains confusion over Espanyol past
Mauricio Pochettino has reiterated that he is happy at Tottenham amid reports that he being considered as a possible replacement for Luis Enrique at Barcelona.
However, the Spurs manager has stressed that he never said he was “born with a bull in his arm” – a widely-reported quote from January which supposedly referred to the Argentinian’s history with Barca’s cross-city rivals Espanyol.
Pochettino actually said he was “born with a ball in his arms” – an attempt to explain that he is fully aware of how the sport works and how rumours surface.
And, while the 44-year-old feels he is already working at one of Europe’s biggest clubs, he has played down the suggestion that his past with Espanyol – as a player and a manager – would make it difficult for him to work at the Nou Camp in future.
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Asked if he is aware of reports that his name is on the list of potential replacements for Enrique, Pochettino said: “I saw because it’s a big list - 100 names.
“As I told you, that is the business, I know it very well. I was born, not with a bull, with a ball in my arms. With a ball. Not bull.
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“I only tried to explain that I know very well that business, football. When I was born my mum and my dad put a football in my arms.
“I only tried to give a metaphorical example that I understand that business, that my name will be in a list. But I think you cannot explain more.”
Asked if his history with Espanyol would be an issue for him if Barcelona did come calling, Pochettino added: “I don’t want to speak because if you speak too much it’s possible that my words can be twisted.
“I can only say I’m happy here, I understand the business, I can understand that my name is some lists - like a list if I go on and some managers that are at other clubs. It’s normal in football today.
“I think we just understand that I am and we are in one of the biggest clubs in Europe, because for me Tottenham is one of the biggest clubs - and I think you can see we’re in a position that we play very good football, with an exciting team and very good players.
“It’s normal that we are called to the attention of the rest of the clubs and football people around the world. We are one of the exciting teams to watch. But it is only that we are part of that business and our names always appear on the lists of names.”
The rumours are likely to persist for now, but Pochettino is already planning for next season and identifying transfer targets.
“Of course, like always [Daniel Levy and I] have a very close relationship, very close,” he added.
“Nearly every day we have some chats. We’re always talking to try to improve, to try to learn about our mistakes, learn from our experience. But the good thing is we keep a very good relationship.
“Now with [chief scout] Steve Hitchen we are working hard to try to find the players to try to improve our squad for next season.
“Always we believe that our targets are good and can improve and help us. That is the theory – maybe the practice sometimes is good and sometimes is not so good.
“But of course we are excited now to watch and try to assess players to add next season and help the team to achieve the things that we want.”
Pochettino’s immediate focus is on Sunday’s home game against Everton – and he is waiting to see if Harry Kane, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen will be available.
Spurs’ Belgian defenders both came off against Stoke last weekend as precautions, while Kane suffered a knock to the knee after colliding with a post in the second half.
All three players will be assessed in tomorrow’s final training session, but Pochettino seems confident the trio will be fit to start.
Asked about Vertonghen’s withdrawal against Stoke, the Spurs boss said: “He [had his ankle injury], he worked very hard to try to be fit and play as soon as possible.
“He played against Fulham and Gent, and then it was a precaution because he was a little bit tired. But we trust that he will arrive on Sunday to play and will be ready.
“He’s still a doubt because we need to assess him tomorrow, but he’s in a good position like Harry Kane and Toby, and I trust tomorrow all the tests will be positive and they can be available to play.”
Pochettino could have substituted Kane against Stoke too, given the Lilywhites were leading 4-0 when he hit the woodwork – literally.
But the hat-trick hero played on until the 86th minute and Pochettino added; “In the first moment [Harry] said that it (the knee) was good. After a few minutes I asked because at that moment I think we had made two changes.
“He said ‘I am okay’, but at the end of the game when he got cold it appeared more painful. But I trust that he can play on Sunday. If not, if it’s a risk, of course he will not be in the squad.”
When Kane was eventually withdrawn on Sunday, it was Heung-Min Son who got a late run-out, rather than summer signing Vincent Janssen.
Dutch striker Janssen has only had four cameo appearances since the FA Cup tie against Wycombe Wanderers on January 28, when he scored a penalty and set up Son’s late winner – and Pochettino said last month that he needed to “show more” on the training ground.
He added: “You need to analyse the game [against Stoke]. We had a few problems – one with Toby, another with Jan.
“It was a possibility [to bring Vincent on] but it was for me to choose between Son and Vincent. We decided to replace Harry with Sonny.
“But it’s true that I always try to be honest and be fair, and in the last few weeks I’m very happy with how he reacts.
“He’s training now – he had a small problem in his foot - but I’m happy with his reaction and he realised that he needs to fight on the training ground, in the sessions, to try to give me the trust and the confidence to then give him the facility to play. I think he has taken a very good way now to try to fight for his place here.”