Sky Sports News senior reporter Melissa Reddy believes Mauricio Pochettino would be a good fit for Chelsea and can unlock the £600m invested by co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali; former Southampton, Tottenham and PSG boss frontrunner for Blues role
Chelsea have spent £600m on players and need a manager that can properly mine that investment. It is why Mauricio Pochettino is the frontrunner for the vacancy.
The memory remains so vivid, that Adam Lallana can recall every detail. The midfielder described it as “an awakening” when Pochettino first walked into Southampton’s dressing room in January 2013 to give his introductory address ahead of a training session.
The Argentine had only undertaken a two-hour English lesson booked by his wife at that point, but possessed a magnetic pull. “He was sharp,” Lallana noted. “He looked the part, he spoke with passion despite the language barrier. There was so much energy in the room and an immediate connection. The lads were all buzzing to play for him – and were desperate to know what fragrance he used!”
Pochettino has a habit of not just making a strong first impression on his players as a manager, but a lasting one.
At Espanyol, a club he saved from relegation against all logic, Philippe Coutinho was transformed from an Inter castaway to a stunning playmaker who would directly and indirectly contribute to Liverpool’s golden period under Jurgen Klopp. “Mauricio gave me a lot of confidence,” the Brazilian would say. “He helped me believe in myself and become the player I am.”
Pochettino is a players’ manager; disarming then developing them. He offers a journey to buy into, a subscription to the collective good. “I look in people’s eyes and it becomes easy to connect,” he told this writer. “I believe people can perceive what you are about and that first impressions are big – you need to be strong and honest and people will relate to that. Players need to feel how you work and trust in you.”
Chelsea know all this about Pochettino. They have known all this. Twice under Roman Abramovich, via Marina Granovskaia who held him in the highest esteem, they attempted to appoint the 51-year-old at Stamford Bridge.
But there is no greater need for his skillset at the club than right now. Chelsea have pumped £600 million into a seriously bloated squad and need a figure who can unlock their investment.
There is an abundance of talent, but the group is low on confidence and sans direction. They are primed for Pochettino’s energy, philosophy, and brand of belief that Dejan Lovren once likened to ‘becoming a superhero.’
Chelsea’s recruitment staff know Pochettino would work with the tools at his disposal instead of pointing to transfers. This is a man that performed miracles at Tottenham with little-to-no net spend, going two successive windows without making a signing – an anomaly in the Premier League.
The squad is overflowing with intelligent players that would ace Pochettino’s demands for a high press, quick offensive transitions, overloads and building from the back.
There is also enough versatility to adapt approach to a compact, organised shape in a mid-block. The attacks from Pochettino’s teams have tended to largely engage the full-backs, an area Chelsea are particularly stocked in.