Mauricio Pochettino is back in the Premier League.
The former Espanyol, Southampton, Tottenham and Paris St-Germain manager will be Chelsea boss next season in his third spell in charge of an English club.
He becomes owner Todd Boehly’s third permanent boss in the 12 months since he took over the club – and his fourth appointment, counting interim coaches Bruno Saltor and Frank Lampard.
The Argentine arrives at Stamford Bridge after a turbulent season for the Blues, who have spent £600m since taking over.
But which Pochettino do the Blues get? And why has the 51-year-old decided it’s time to return – to a seemingly messy club – after almost a year away?
“He has refused several clubs since leaving PSG”
Joining Chelsea was not a decision Pochettino took lightly; he has turned down a number of potential suitors since leaving PSG in July 2022.
There was a chance he could have joined them last September when Thomas Tuchel left but, by then, Chelsea had more or less decided to bring in Graham Potter and the approach made to Pochettino by Chelsea seemed to best lukewarm.
There are other factors why the opportunity looks different this time around.
Back then, Chelsea fans were still missing Tuchel, who won the Champions League for the club less than three months after taking over from Frank Lampard.
Pochettino also wouldn’t have been given as much scrutiny as he is now. If he learned one thing at PSG, it was that to succeed he and his team would need influence throughout the club, from the academic level upwards.
He has had no shortage of offers since leaving Paris, but none have ticked as many boxes as Chelsea, certainly in this second round of negotiations with the club.
He was determined to make sure he made the right choice about his next employer – and initially turned Chelsea down from Boehly until he was offered more control.
He received approaches from Benfica, Athletic Bilbao, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest. Sevilla have also made contact, as have Villarreal, Nice and Leeds United.
But after six straight years in the Champions League, reaching a final and a semi-final, he wants to go to a club he believes will challenge for the titles.
He would certainly have gone to Manchester United and spoken to them a few times before and after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s departure and was very disappointed not to get the green light, especially since he had the support of many members of the club, including Sir Alex Ferguson.
Everything at Chelsea fits. It’s a young team, a thriving academy coupled with a desire from the owners to bring youngsters through, an aggressive and dynamic ethos with high pressure and lots of energy.
Much, of course, will depend on who he can bring in, with a need to find a striker clearly a primary focus. If Romelu Lukaku manages to avoid injuries he could well be an option, although he will have to jettison some players before considering any additions to the squad.
‘Pochettino has no right to be Pochettino’ – what happened at PSG?
On July 5, 2022, Paris St-Germain and Pochettino parted ways.
It was a rushed ‘marriage’, with just five days over the Christmas period between initial contact and contract signing in January 2021, and the relationship ending 18 months later.
Three of the four Parc des Princes starters before Pochettino (Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery and Thomas Tuchel) won European trophies after leaving the club, so it would be too simple to explain their lack of European success over managers. .
There is inherently a problem at PSG, a club that seems to see its coaches primarily as babysitters with the enormous talents their countless riches can acquire.
This was always going to frustrate someone like Pochettino and his team, who are dedicated to developing new talent while maximizing what’s available to them, rather than spending most of their time trying to keep the superstars happy.
He wants to influence his players in a positive way and bring high-paced, high-energy football to the pitch. This was never going to be possible in Paris.
These are things you can only do if you have the power to do so. Once it became clear that he was only there to keep everything in balance and to make sure the megastars stayed in their comfort zone, his days were numbered, because those are the things that didn’t. nothing much to do with coaching.
He also had to deal with the thorny issue of being the first manager to have Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar together. The perception was that with three of the greatest players in the world at his disposal, then they should win it all – it’s never that simple.
In November 2021, after PSG lost to Manchester City in the Champions League group stage, Thierry Henry commented: “Pochettino is not allowed to be Pochettino sometimes with this team.”
Witnessing PSG’s struggles since his departure, it can be concluded that he took the team as far as he could given the limitations placed on him.
In his final season, he reclaimed the French championship title and should have picked up a win over Real Madrid in the knockout stages of the Champions League – PSG were superior until the end of the match.
Where has he been since leaving PSG?
An expensive and exhausting season and a half at PSG forced him to recharge his batteries.
The enormous pleasure and job satisfaction he got at Spurs ended in sadness, especially when four months later the world went into lockdown, which denied him the chance to process what was his. arrived.
This time he was able to process things. He returned to Japan, a country he last visited with Argentina for the 2002 World Cup, but this time as a tourist with his family.
He spends much of his time traveling between London and Barcelona. He hadn’t seen his son as much as he would have liked, especially because when he was at PSG it was impossible to travel and Maurizio was playing at Watford. He has now moved to Gimnastic Tarragona, in Spain’s third tier, and Pochettino can watch him play whenever he can.
During his time in Paris, there were many periods when he was unable to see his wife due to lockdown restrictions. Much of his life has been spent in the cozy luxury of a five-star hotel.
This last break left him much fresher.
He has attended numerous coaching masterclasses with his assistant Jesus Perez, who will join him at Chelsea, as have first-team coach Miguel D’Agostino, his son Sebastiano, a sports scientist, and goalkeeping coach Toni Jiménez. The group are inseparable friends, and all but Sebas have worked together since Pochettino’s time at Espanyol.
He has also spent a lot of time helping young coaches earn their coaching badges, while learning from their younger approach as the game continues to evolve.
What will he have to do to succeed at Chelsea?
Pochettino is aware that, unlike Espanyol, Southampton and Tottenham, PSG were the first club where he didn’t leave something of real value.
What his time at PSG taught him is that he has to get back to his essence, with all his passion and intensity, not unlike the relationship he had with his Spurs players.
For that, he took a good look at what he did wrong at the French club, what he could have done better and how he can avoid making similar mistakes at Chelsea.
He needs to have the energy to be able to mold the players, know the players are listening to him, and have the authority to make sure that happens.
He realizes that at Chelsea he has to control the schedule as much as possible, which he couldn’t do at PSG.
Pochettino will also need to gather people around him who can understand everything about the club, what makes it work and how he can control things outside the training ground.
And above all, it must convey the message that it will not be a quick fix and, more than large sums of money, what is needed most is time. A year will help. Two years, he believes, will guarantee the redirection and recovery of this massive club.