The Champions League is never enough. Not for Real Madrid, whose sackings of Jupp Heynckes and Vicente del Bosque arrived as soon as they had won the ultimate prize.
Zinedine Zidane loved his club, but he did so in full knowledge of its flaws. A teetering domestic campaign saw the knives being sharpened in the halls of the Bernabeu. Briefings were placed about the need for a managerial change.
The club needed a coach who would be more than a mute cheerleader on the sidelines.
Gareth Bales’ acrobatics helped to silence those voices temporarily.
Zidane, however, knew they would never quiet completely, and his resignation allowed that rarest of things for a Merengues coach – the ability to leave on his one’s own terms.
Would Real Madrid be right for Pochettino?
Even before he arrives at Real Madrid, it’s safe to assume that Mauricio Pocchetino won’t be indulged a similar opportunity.
The Argentine has neither the allies nor the record to roll back against the club’s incessant politicking. All of which begs the question – should he even go?
Madrid is synonymous with success. It is a place in first class or a holiday in a five-star hotel. To get there, you need to be special; you need to have done something.
The association with glamour and triumph is intoxicating, but what is there beyond that? There is no ‘project’ to fulfil at the Bernabeu.
There is no time to hone a playing system or even a style; the only demand is to win, and it is immediate and all-encompassing.
Progress is never enough in Madrid
Pochettino, who is yet to win a trophy in his managerial career, hasn’t had to abide by these white-hot expectations.
The Argentine has pointed towards progress as a useful metric – the way Spurs have climbed up the table during his tenure, the way he has honed them into a coherent unit.
This is useful at White Hart Lane, but it would be pointless at a club which already finds itself at the apex of world football. It’s trophies or bust.
On the other hand, the way Pochettino has been able to wreak success on Tottenham is even more impressive considering the club’s hamstrung finances.
Spurs can’t afford the fees and wages of Manchester City or Manchester United, but a cute recruitment policy has unearthed talents like Davinson Sánchez and Christian Eriksen.
Both had decent reputations in inferior leagues before both were hounded into top-level performers by their manager.
A prison built from gold
At Real Madrid, Pochettino would have far more money and probably even less influence. It’s not enough for a player to be good enough for the club. Every transfer must be a statement, every move an echo of its greatness. Only the best players in the world play here.
For a coach that has made his reputation on carving raw talents into prime stars, it would represent a reduction of sorts. Gone would be the diligent, intense improver of players. In would come the chaperone of mega-egos, the pillow-fluffer who is always one bad month away from the sack.
Pochettino must think seriously before deciding on his future. A prison built from gold remains a prison nonetheless.
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