'Pochettino will bring goals and sunshine'

By Graham Hunter(@BumperGraham) 29 May 2023
Mauricio Pochettino waves

Spanish football expert Graham Hunter on the philosophy that drives Chelsea's new head coach

Related Articles
Hargreaves: Why Pochettino's Chelsea will be amazing
Wright: Pochettino can provide direction for youthful Chelsea
Pochettino: I grew up with a football in my arm

If you’ve any interest in football at all, then you’ll already know the name Mauricio Pochettino.  

You’ll be able to picture him too - a youthful-looking 52-year-old, quick to smile and laugh, full, ungreying mop of brown hair despite the stress inherent in having coached very nearly 600 matches.  

You’ll know, too, that he played, managed, and won, in Argentina, Spain, France and England - always loving possession of the ball. 

Always attacking, playing to win - not to draw.  

Espanyol players celebrate Mauricio Pochettinos goal
Mauricio Pochettino playing for Espanyol in 2000

But I’d venture there are many things about this likeable, adventurous man you have no idea about.  

That, as a youngster, he’d be up at 6am to hitch-hike to college so as to save the bus fare - having begun to earn local fame as a footballer, despite he and his mates sometimes needing to make-do with a “ball” improvised out of rolled-up rags. 

On this theme, did you know that he earned his place at Newell’s Old Boys, the club Lionel Messi supports, aged 13 after Marcelo Bielsa watched just five short minutes of him in a practice match? That was enough! 

Argetinas Mauricio Pochettino fouls Englands Michael Owen in the 2002 World CUp
Mauricio Pochettino fouls England's Michael Owen in the 2002 FIFA World Cup

Or that his coaching career began when he was asked to cut his teeth working with the Espanyol women’s team, training sessions starting at 10pm once all the amateur and semi-pro players had finished their daily work? 

That his wife, Karina, always told him: “You’ll be a much better coach than you ever were as a player.”  

Quite a prediction given that, as a ball-playing centre-half, he won trophies in Argentina, Spain and France.  

He’s a thinker, too.  

Consumed by his love of football, ambitious, driven by developing coaching and playing ideas, yes. But determined to use his mind and challenge himself culturally and personally.

When he first arrived in England, coaching Southampton before moving to Tottenham Hotspur, his personal mantra was: “Open your mind… open your mind!”

Because Pochettino believes that deliberately leaving one’s comfort zone, testing your resilience and ability to learn is the key to a fulfilling life. 

‘A better person’

The last of several long interviews I’ve had with him came as he was reflecting on having been ill with COVID-19, an experience which had been unpleasant, but which had left a positive impact. 

“Even though I didn’t have a good time, I think COVID helped me become a better person,” he explained. “To think more about others around me, and how to be more responsible while enjoying what we do.  

Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton
First arriving in England at Southampton, Pochettino looked to open the minds of his players

“Because we also need to leave a better world to our children and grandchildren.  

“I don’t believe in a cheap philosophy that says, ‘Live today, Forget about tomorrow.’  

“I think it should be, ‘Live today thinking there’ll be tomorrow and thinking our children will be there for it.’” 

Love of the ball

When he moves into his new office he’ll have a ball on the shelf behind his desk - Pochettino loves the actual ball, not simply the profession.  

It’ll be there to remind him of all the wonderful things football has brought him in life.  

To remind him that no matter what new techniques and opportunities technology may bring a coach - it’s still, all, about loving the ball, getting hold of it as often as possible. And knowing precisely what to do with it. 

Wherever he’s gone, player or coach, he’s won friends and admirers. Trophies followed when he managed Paris Saint-Germain. 

Mauricio Pochettino and Neymar display the French Cup won with PSG
Mauricio Pochettino and Neymar display the French Cup won with PSG

But there’s something fundamental in this man’s philosophy with which everyone, neutrals or those who support the team he manages, can identify.  

“The responsibilities and the obligations which come with management are fine, but we can never, ever, forget to enjoy ourselves, to enjoy football," he said. "Anyone who doesn’t have enjoyment in their working life will diminish what they can achieve.”  

Pochettino's countryman, the great Alfredo Di Stefano, used to argue that “a match without a goal is a like a day without sunshine”.   

Pochettino is one of those coaches who tries to bring goals, to dispel clouds.  

To bring a little sunshine into all our lives.  

Graham Hunter (@BumperGraham) is a Spanish football writer, producer and broadcaster. 

Also in this series

Part 1: Chelsea appoint Pochettino as new head coach
Part 2: How Chelsea will benefit from Pochettino's attacking approach

Latest Videos

More Videos