As footballing divorces go, the one that saw Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham Hotspur part ways in November 2019 was particularly painful, and maybe even regretful for both parties. Jose Mourinho, Pochettino’s replacement, lasted less than a year-and-a-half as Spurs boss while Pochettino has suffered a stressful time at Paris Saint-Germain.
Now, though, there is the prospect that the pair could join forces again, but this would require Tottenham to make a big call on their current manager. Antonio Conte is reportedly wanted by PSG while Pochettino is believed to be keen on a return to the Premier League. A manager swap could be on the cards.
However, Spurs should be wary of making a move based on sentimentality, especially when their current manager is one of the best of his generation. Tottenham spent months attempting to lure Conte to North London in the belief he would bring success to the club, and the early signs are positive that he will deliver exactly this.
Spurs might not finish in the Premier League’s top four, they may not qualify for next season’s Champions League, but they are in a much better place now as a team than they were at the time of Conte’s appointment. Back then, a top four finish was a distant dream. That Tottenham are even in contention is an achievement in itself.
The structure is now there for Conte to build on. He has shifted Tottenham into a 3-4-2-1 shape with Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski adding significantly quality to the side since their arrival in the January transfer window. Defensively, Spurs are a stronger unit while Harry Kane and Son Heung-min’s attacking partnership remains the most natural in the Premier League.
With one or two top quality additions this summer, Tottenham could take the next step in their development under Conte. The former Chelsea and Inter boss has gone through the transitional phase and has a good grasp of the qualities, and shortcomings, of his squad. He knows what they need this summer.
Pochettino, on the other hand, would inherit a squad that has changed a lot since he left Tottenham. The Argentine is notoriously specific in his demands and would almost certainly want to make wholesale changes. Pochettino’s return to Spurs this summer would likely send them back to square one. They would embark on yet another transitional phase of at least a season.
What would it say about the leadership at Tottenham Hotspur if they went from Pochettino to Mourinho to Conte and back to Pochettino all in the space of less than three years? Daniel Levy has shown ambition in his efforts to turn Spurs into an elite level club, but another managerial change would prompt questions about his judgement.
There is no doubting the legacy left behind at Tottenham by Pochettino. The Argentine made Spurs a regular fixture in the top four and took the club to their first-ever Champions League final. Spurs challenged for the Premier League title in 2015/16 and 2016/17, but fell short. That Pochettino’s Tottenham were never able to clear the final hurdle still stings.
But the North London club mustn’t let romance cloud their judgement and their vision of the future. Pochettino’s stock has fallen since taking over at PSG where he has been unable to forge a winning team from the strongest squad in European football. He wasn’t even able to win the Ligue 1 title last season, losing out to Lille. If Tottenham Hotspur want to win, they already have the best man to help them do that.