Mauricio Pochettino has criticised football’s decision-makers over the congested schedules that have turned the job of managers into a nightmare, as he called for greater respect to be shown to the players. The Tottenham Hotspur manager spoke out in the wake of the hamstring injury that his captain, Hugo Lloris, sustained in the 1-1 draw at Everton last Saturday, on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
Lloris played in all seven of France’s Euro 2016 ties, with the last one coming on 10 July – the 1-0 defeat against Portugal in the final. Lloris’s only action of Tottenham’s pre-season came as a second-half substitute in the 6-1 win against Internazionale on 5 August.
Pochettino was reluctant to link Lloris’s injury – which will keep him out for four weeks – to his lack of an adequate summer break and the physical strain he has endured. But he said that “you cannot play the Euros and start [the Premier League] on 13 August” and he was scathing in his attack on the authorities.
“Should I have rested Hugo more? It would be better if we discussed how our bosses manage football,” Pochettino said. “The problem is the organisation of the competition. You cannot play the Euros and start on 13 August. How can you give rest to the players, after the whole season?
“The decisions are always from the people who never played football. I agree with Diego Maradona sometimes when he complains about football: the people who take the decisions are people who never touch the football. That is the problem. Our players are special athletes. They need pre-season, they need to train properly, they need to rest and they need good food. It’s impossible to compete when the amount of competitions is very high. To be ready to compete, they need time.
“It’s true that it’s a business but respect the athletes. Every four years you compete in the Olympic Games but in football it’s every three days. It’s very difficult. That’s why it’s important to organise the competition better in the future but, sometimes, you’re speaking for the sake of it because who listens?”
Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, has been under fire for his decision to rest his France players Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud, together with the Germany midfielder Mesut Özil. They were missing last Sunday as Arsenal lost 4-3 at home against Liverpool. Wenger rushed back Aaron Ramsey, who had been part of the Wales squad that reached the Euro 2016 semi-final, and the midfielder injured his hamstring.
Pochettino said that managers were damned, whatever they did. “We need to be like jugglers in the circus,” he said. “Come on! All the pressure is on the managers, always. Finding the balance is difficult. If you say, ‘I don’t want to use this player that was involved in the Euros,’ and you have no positive results – the media, the supporters, the board and the president kill me. Or, if you pick a player who you don’t give holidays to, and he gets injured, it’s your fault. There is nothing to win, only to lose. If you don’t win the game, you are guilty.
“Just because you pay the players good money doesn’t mean that they must be ready. Harry Kane, for example – he has no holiday, no holiday, no holiday. He plays in the under-21s [European Championship] last summer and then the Euros. He is not a machine. It is important to be clear when the time is to compete and when the time is to rest. In the NBA and the NFL, for example, it is four months’ competition and then holiday. And they receive more money than our players.”