On the crisp, cold morning of 19 November 2019, Daniel Levy made a bold statement that will forever be a telling moment in Tottenham Hotspur’s modern history: he waved goodbye to Mauricio Pochettino — the manager that had rebuilt a Spurs side from nothing to something, the manager that guided Spurs to four straight seasons in the Champions League and their first-ever Champions League final, the manager that built a side good enough to compete for a Premier League title. The manager that made a lot of fans fall in love with Tottenham Hotspur again.
And what made this incredible tenure even more of a genuine achievement was the barriers he had in his way: he left the club with only £90m net spend on transfers, 17th among current Premier League teams at the day of his sacking, all the while juggling the tough logistics of a transformational stadium move (MEN). Before the 17/18 season, Tottenham became the first team to not make a summer signing since the transfer window inception in 2003.
Why, you ask? Why did Levy sack the manger that he failed to back himself that was overachieving?
The next morning, before the Spurs faithful had even had time to grief the loss of their loved one — Jose Mourinho, like the Undertaker, rose from the dead to become Spurs’ new manager.
If Pochettino is hot, Mourinho is cold. If Pochettino is summer, Mourinho is winter. The point between the needless metaphors is that the two are virtual opposites in every shape the word: the old villain and the young hero.
Pochettino never won a competitive trophy with Spurs, and Mourinho, granted, boasts one of the best CVs in the modern game. But anyone saw how his end at Chelsea and Man United had cause for concern as Mourinho self-imploded and burned everything to the ground with him. Big questions surrounded him when he was appointed as Spurs manager: is the Portuguese a faded force? Is he yesterday’s man whose scintillating peak was 2002-2010?
It is impossible to put in genuine words how much of a risk Levy took that day. Spurs’ reputation, culture, identity, and golden crop of players (Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min mainly) were all put into Mourinho’s hands. Levy put all of his eggs into Mourinho’s basket.
If Mourinho could resurrect back his former-self — the magical winning touch, that man who arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004 and sent a shockwave through English football — then Levy has just transformed Tottenham Hotspur.
This had to work.
It hasn’t worked. And everything he put on the line is slowly crumbling in front of our eyes. Levy’s intentions with the appointment was clear: the football club had to transform into intelligent c***s and cold killers in order get to the next level.
Ah, ‘the next level’. What a phrase. A phrase that was so commonly used during Pochettino’s tenure.
‘Can he take Spurs to the next level’?
If the Champions League final, the biggest club game in the European football, isn’t the next level — what is. Seriously, even if it isn’t in your opinion, how far away do Spurs look being anywhere near that level right now?
Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko were the chosen midfield pairing that went on that Champions League run. They were the two midfielders who looked hopelessly out of depth against Dinamo Zagreb under Mourinho. Harry Kane was injured for the quarter-final and semi-final, now a Harry Kane injury would render Spurs bottom-half fodder.
The embarrassing factor that I’m trying to allude too for Mourinho is that he has actually got a much nicer hand than Pochettino did. In his first transfer window, he got backed more than Pochettino ever did.
The squad, on paper, is better than when Pochettino was sacked.
The players have to take some of the blame, to be fair. But there is simply no denying that Pochettino got a tune, a very good tune at that, out of a very similar squad.
This has gone down the path that Levy would see in his worst nightmares. Mourinho feels like a deluded philosopher, stuck in his twisted ways — unable to accept the great attacking potential this side has.
This all brings us to now: the most embarrassing night in Tottenham’s European history, Champions League football is a million miles away; a fan base divided.
Pochettino is at PSG, one of the richest clubs in world football, working with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. He is just waiting to see who his side will face in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Over to you, Levy. You’ve got another bold decision to make.
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