Mauricio Pochettino has been sacked as the manager of Tottenham, with the club already locked in talks with José Mourinho to be his replacement. Mourinho, who has been out of work since his dismissal by Manchester United last December, has made little secret of his desire to return to the Premier League.
Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, has opened talks with Mourinho, who has managed Chelsea on two occasions, with the discussions focusing on transfer budgets and the club’s vision for the immediate future. Levy is a long-standing admirer of Mourinho and both parties now believe a deal for him to take over is close.
Max Allegri, the former Juventus manager, who is also out of work, had been interested in the Spurs job but he understands that the club are primed to get Mourinho. Eddie Howe, the Bournemouth manager, also has his backers at Spurs.
Pochettino, who oversaw year-on-year progress at Spurs after his arrival in 2014, culminating in the memorable run to last season’s Champions League final, had watched his fortunes slump after a difficult summer.
Pochettino’s team took 14 points from 12 matches this season and, in a larger sample size back to February, 25 from 24 games – in other words, relegation form. The club are 11 points off the top-four pace before Saturday’s derby at West Ham. With huge repayments to make on the new stadium the importance of regular Champions League football cannot be overstated and Levy said he had acted to give a new manager the chance to save the season.
Pochettino departs along with his assistants Jesús Pérez, Miguel D’Agostino and Toni Jiménez and it has been an expensive decision for Levy. The manager had a little over three and a half years to run on his £8.5m-a-season deal.
Levy said: “We were extremely reluctant to make this change and it is not a decision the board has taken lightly, nor in haste. Regrettably domestic results at the end of last season and beginning of this season have been extremely disappointing.
“It falls to the board to make the difficult decisions – this one made more so given the many memorable moments we have had with Mauricio and his coaching staff. But we do so in the club’s best interests. Mauricio and his coaching staff will always be part of our history. I have the utmost admiration for the manner in which he dealt with the difficult times away from a home ground whilst we built the new stadium and for the warmth and positivity he brought to us.
“I should like to thank him and his coaching staff for all they have contributed. They will always be welcome here. We have a talented squad. We need to re-energise and look to deliver a positive season for our supporters.”
Pochettino, who turned down several offers from rival clubs during his Spurs tenure, was never going to walk away, despite his struggles this season, and it left Levy having to sack him, bringing down the curtain on an era of progress, even though Pochettino did not win a trophy.
His brief had been to build a team and then, when the move into the new stadium happened, push on to fight for a top-four finish. Instead, working on a shoestring budget, he delivered a Champions League finish in his second season and three more in succession after that. Before his arrival from Southampton Spurs had finished in the top four in two of their 22 Premier League campaigns.
Pochettino had been frustrated with the lack of transfer activity in the summer of 2018 and he clashed with Levy over the club’s dealings this past summer, especially the inability to move on a clutch of players who were either surplus to requirement or wanted to leave. He had wanted to reinvest in other players and create new pathways into the first team.